The winner was chosen through a quirk of democracy established by a 1705 Virginia law
State legislative races have been settled this way before
GOP incumbent David Yancey won a “lot draw” in the race for Virginia’s House of Delegates Thursday, giving Republicans control of the chamber.
The quirk of democracy came as the Virginia Board of Elections used the procedure laid out in a 1705 law to settle the 11,608-to-11,608 tie between Yancey and Democrat Shelly Simonds for the seat.
James Alcorn, the chairman of the board of elections, drew a film canister with Yancey’s name out of a blue and white ceramic bowl made by Virginia artist Steven Glass.
After the lot draw, Simonds did not rule out seeking a second recount, saying “all options are still on the table.”
“At this moment, I am not conceding,” she said. A spokeswoman for the state’s House Democratic caucus said a statement on the next steps for Democrats is coming later Thursday.
Still, Alcorn, the election board chairman, said that Yancey is now certified as the winner.
He said it’s an “open question” whether Virginia laws would allow for a second recount, and that if Simonds asks for one, a judge would have to settle it.
Yancey did not attend the drawing. He’d previously resisted Simonds’ requests to make the lot draw the final word in a saga that has dragged on since Democrats flipped 15 seats, nearly taking control of the previously Republican-dominated House of Delegates in November’s election.
“This race could not have been any closer, and when I return to the House of Delegates, I want all residents of Newport News to know I am ready to serve as their delegate and look forward to hearing how I can improve the lives of all,” Yancey said in a statement Thursday. “Shelly Simonds ran a great campaign and I thank her for her service on the Newport News School Board. I look forward to her continued involvement in issues that matter to the people of the 94th. The election is behind us, the outcome is clear, and my responsibility now is to begin the work I was re-elected to do.”
State legislative races have been settled this way before. In Mississippi in 2015, a House seat was decided by the candidates drawing straws (though the Democratic candidate’s win was quickly overturned by the Republican-controlled state House). In 2006, a coin toss settled a primary for an Alaska House seat.
But seldom, if ever, have the stakes been so high. Yancey’s win gives Republicans a 51-49 majority and continued control of the House – allowing them to stymie Democrat Ralph Northam, who won November’s governor’s race. A Simonds win would have forced the parties to share power in the House.
It was the second attempt to hold the lot drawing. The first effort, scheduled for December, was canceled when Simonds asked a court to toss out a ballot it had previously decided to count for Yancey, resulting in the tie. The court rejected Simonds’ motion on Wednesday.