POLITICS
12/26/2017 04:35 pm ET Updated Dec 27, 2017

Name-Drawing Delayed In Tied Virginia Race After Democrat Launches Last-Minute Court Challenge

On Wednesday, the state's Board of Elections had been scheduled to pick a name out of a bowl, in a race that would determine control of the state legislature.

Virginia’s Board of Elections delayed Wednesday morning’s name-drawing that would have determined the winner of a crucial seat in the state House of Delegates, after Democrat Shelly Simonds launched a last-minute effort Tuesday to prevent the race from being settled by luck. 

Simonds’ campaign filed a motion asking judges in Newport News Circuit Court to reconsider last week’s decision to count a contested ballot for her opponent, Republican incumbent David Yancey. 

The move is the latest twist in the dramatic race for the state’s 94th District. If Simonds were to win the seat, Republicans would lose majority control of the House of Delegates after 17 years.

Initially, Yancey appeared to have beaten Simonds by 10 votes in the Nov. 7 election. But a recount completed on Dec. 19 determined Simonds had defeated Yancey by just one vote. A day later, the three-judge panel ruled that a contested ballot, which had been marked for Yancey but had been uncounted, should have been counted for the Republican ― bringing the score to a tie.

On Wednesday, a member of the state Board of Elections was scheduled to pick one of two film canisters out of a bowl.

According to Virginia law, House races that result in a tie need to be decided “by lot.” On Wednesday, a member of the state Board of Elections was scheduled to pick one of two film canisters out of a bowl. Written on a piece of paper inside that canister would be a name ― the name of the winner.

The Simonds campaign filed its motion electronically, according to CNN. The circuit court was closed Tuesday, meaning it would not consider the motion until at least Wednesday.

In response, the Board of Elections announced late Tuesday that it would postpone the name-drawing.

“Drawing names is an action of last resort,” board Chairman James Alcorn said in a statement to reporters. “Any substantive concerns regarding the election or recount should be resolved before a random drawing is conducted.”

Simonds’ campaign is arguing that it was too late in the process to bring up the single ballot in question, CNN reports. “My opponent made an end run around the clear rules of the recount,” Simonds said during a conference call with reporters, according to the network.

It is unclear when the circuit court judges will reconvene to decide whether to consider Simonds’ motion. The Washington Post and the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported Wednesday that some of the judges were out of town for the holidays, so they might not address the matter until next week, or may convene remotely.

This story has been updated to reflect the Board of Elections delaying Wednesday’s name-drawing and the Circuit Court judges not addressing the motion on Wednesday.

CONVERSATIONS