Friday 20 July 2018

Luck of the draw allows Republican to win tied Virginia election

Virginia State Board of Elections chairman, James Alcorn, holds up the name of David Yancy, the winner of a drawing of lots to decide a House of Delegates seat (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Virginia State Board of Elections chairman, James Alcorn, holds up the name of David Yancy, the winner of a drawing of lots to decide a House of Delegates seat (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

The Republican candidate in an important election in Virginia won the race when his name was chosen first out of a ceramic bowl.

David Yancey tied with Democrat Shelley Simonds in the state House of Delegates race, and there was a recount and a legal battle.

The draw took place in a conference room in Richmond's Capitol Square, and Mr Yancey stayed away, while Ms Simonds and many of her supporters sat in stunned silence.

Mr Yancey's win allows Republicans to maintain a slim majority in the House, though a final tally is still uncertain.

The drawing attracted a large crowd to the Virginia elections board meeting, and the name of each candidate, printed on a piece of paper, was placed into separate film canisters.

The canisters were put into a cobalt-blue-and-white ceramic bowl made by a local artist and stirred around.

Board Chairman James Alcorn pulled one of the canister's out and read the winner's name: "David Yancey."

Ms Simonds said: "This is a sad conclusion for me," sounding like she was conceding defeat.

But when asked, she explicitly said her options, including a recount request, were still on the table.

For his part, Mr Yancey's only comments came on social media , where he congratulated Ms Simonds on a "hard fought election".

He left the speaking to House Republican Leader Kirk Cox, who said: "The takeaway from today is, we will be in the majority on the first day," referring to the 2018 legislative session that starts next week.

Republicans currently control the chamber 51-49. If Ms Simonds pursued a recount, if would not be complete before the session starts and Mr Cox said neither Mr Yancey not Ms Simonds would be seated until a winner was finalised.

That would still allow Republicans to elect a speaker and make committee assignments based on a 50-49 advantage.

The race between Mr Yancey, a three-term incumbent, and Ms Simonds has bounced back and forth since the November election, when Virginia Democrats - fuelled by voter anger directed at Republican President Donald Trump - wiped out a 66-34 advantage held by Republicans in the House.

Ms Simonds appeared to have lost by 10 votes, but on December 19, she won a recount by a single vote. The next day, a three-judge panel declared a tie based on a previously uncounted vote for Mr Yancey.

At the heart of the dispute is a single ballot which was unclear, and was not included in Mr Yancey's recount total, but was identified after a Republican election official raised concerns the following day.

After the drawing of lots on Thursday, election board members asked the public to make sure that they correctly fill out ballots in future contests.

The balance of power in the House could shift again because a lawsuit is pending over the results of another House race in Northern Virginia.

Democrat Joshua Cole lost to Republican Bob Thomas by 73 votes in a recount. But voters filed a lawsuit after at least 147 ballots were found to be assigned to the wrong districts. A court hearing on that election is scheduled for Friday.

AP

Press Association

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