Coin Flip Could Decide Which Party Controls Virginia Legislature

For weeks now, Democrats in Virginia wondered if they would finally take control of the state House of Delegates and end 17 years of GOP control in the state. Then, earlier this week, a recount determined that Democrat Shelly Simonds had indeed won the last contested race by the thinnest of margins: One vote.

But on Wednesday, a three-judge panel declared that one of the votes had been cast for Republican David Yancey, meaning that both Simonds and Yancey remain tied at 11,608 votes for each.

So now, based on Virginia law, the winner can only be declared “by lot” exactly which candidate wins the seat and gives control to his or her party as a result. Translation: The flip of a coin.

Virginia House GOP leaders immediately issued a statement after the legal ruling went their way:

“While it appeared yesterday that Shelly Simonds was elected, it’s obvious now that the result will remain unclear for a while longer.”

Democrats, on the other hand, were much less sanguine, saying the ruling:

“…Was wrong, and Delegate-elect Shelly Simonds should have been certified the winner.”

And they added:

“[T]he Republicans themselves had affirmed that this result was accurate yesterday before changing their minds today.”

How did it ever come to this? NPR explains:

“The Republican leaders said that during the recount, an over-vote on one ballot — where a voter has marked more than one valid choice — had not been counted for either candidate. A Republican official and recount observer believed the vote was clearly for Yancey, but the Republicans say a Democratic official had persuaded the Republican observer not to count the ballot. Then this morning, the Republican wrote to the recount court saying he had made the wrong decision and the vote should count for Yancey.”

In other words, the GOP observer, along with the assistance of the court, determined the actual intent of a voter without any supporting evidence other than an incorrectly completed ballot.

And, even after the coin flip, the result of the election may still be in doubt because the loser could request yet another recount of the ballots.

Featured Image Via Virginia House of Delegates.