Coin toss may decide victor in deadlocked Virginia House race

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A three-judge panel ruled that a Virginia House of Delegates race has resulted in a tie, and a coin toss may be implemented by a panel of judges to determine whether Republicans maintain majority control in the legislature.

It was declared Wednesday by a three-panel-judge in Virginia’s 94th District, that a recount will now go to the State Board of Elections to be certified. This, after a recount Tuesday had preliminarily determined that one single vote gave Democrat Shelly Simonds the edge over the incumbent Republican David Yancy in their November race.

In the event the race is ultimately declared a tie, the winner is picked “by lot,” which may include a coin toss, the Washington Post reported.

Chairman of the State Board of Elections, James Alcorn said the winner of the election will likely be picked by the process of placing names on slips of papers into two film canisters and then drawing the canisters from a glass bowl, or Alcorn’s bowler hat, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Alcorn said he is currently conferring with staff to determine the date of the event, and which method will be employed.

After the process is complete and a winner is chosen, if the loser of the coin toss is unhappy with the result, he or she can seek a second recount.

Before the tie occurred, the judges agreed to examine a ballot that had been previously ruled invalid during the previous recount after an unnamed official wrote a letter to the panel saying the ballot should have been counted for the Republican, Yancey, The Hill reported.

Following arguments from lawyers representing both Simonds and Yancey, the panel of judges ruled that the ballot should count as a vote for Yancey, leading to the 11,608-to-11,608 tie Wednesday.

The ballot in question was reportedly filled out for both Simonds and Yancy, however, Simonds’ name had a slash through it. Further, the same ballot also included a vote for GOP gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie and two GOP candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general, the Daily Press reported.

The Virginia Department of Elections guidelines for hand counting printed ballots in recounts says that “any ballot which is marked for more than one candidate for the office shall be deemed to be an overvote and no vote shall be counted except as provided in this section.”

However, the state guidelines also say that if the ballot has “identical marks” for multiple candidates in the race that are “clarified by an additional mark or marks that appear to indicate support,” then the vote should be awarded “for the candidate with the additional clarifying marks.”

Tuesday’s recount gave Simonds an unofficial win over Yancey after Simonds gained a net of 11 votes after it appeared she had lost the initial election to Yancey in November, but those votes remained unofficial until being certified by the three-judge panel.

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The race is of significance due to the fact that Republicans only hold a 51-49 margin of seats in the House of Delegates. Had a victory by Simonds been made official after Tuesday’s recount, the state’s lower chamber would have been split evenly with 50 seats for Democrats and 50 for Republicans.

Recounts for the state’s 28th District in Stafford County, Fredericksburg County and the 68th District in Richmond, are also scheduled for later this week.

It has been 17 years since Democrats met the 50 seat threshold in the Virginia House.