Democrat in Va. House race asks court to invalidate tie
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (AP) — The Democrat in a tied race for a Virginia House seat that could affect which party controls the chamber said Tuesday that she’ll ask a court to declare the tie invalid and her the winner.
Shelly Simonds and her lawyers said the court failed to follow state election law by allowing a ballot to be counted a day after last week’s recount, among other errors. The campaign said it will ask the same court to reconsider its decision.
In the meantime, state election officials said they postponed their plan to break the tie Wednesday in Richmond by drawing names from a bowl.
James Alcorn, chairman of Virginia’s State Board of Elections, said in a series of tweets that drawing names “is an action of last resort.”
“Any substantive concerns regarding the election or recount should be resolved before a random drawing is conducted,” he wrote.
The race between Simonds and Republican Del. David Yancey is for the 94th House of Delegates District in Newport News. If Simonds were declared the winner, it would split party control of Virginia’s House 50-50.
A rare power-sharing agreement would have to be brokered between Democrats and Republicans. If no agreement can be reached, prolonged chaos could ensue.
Simonds appeared to have lost November’s election by 10 votes. Then she appeared to have won a recount by a single vote last week. A day later, a court in Newport News declared a tie.
“At the end of the day, this is really about the integrity of elections in Virginia,” Simonds said during a conference call with reporters.
Ezra Reese, an attorney for Simonds, said Tuesday that the court erred in following election law because it allowed an uncounted ballot to be challenged by Yancey’s campaign after the recount concluded.
Yancey’s attorneys told the court that a Republican election official was “confused” about election guidelines. The official had let the vote remain uncounted before raising concerns the next day.
The court allowed Yancey’s attorneys to challenge the ballot.
On the ballot in question, the voter had picked Republican candidates in statewide races. For the 94th District, the voter filled in the bubble for Yancey and the bubble for Simonds. But he or she also drew a single slash through the bubble for Simonds.
Yancey’s attorneys argued that the ballot was clearly a vote for Yancey. Simonds’ attorneys disagreed.
The court ultimately counted the vote for Yancey, which brought the tally to 11,608 votes each.
Gretchen Heal, a spokeswoman for the Yancey campaign, declined to comment Tuesday on the Simonds campaign’s planned litigation. But Heal said Yancey stands by the arguments made last week by his attorneys.