The race for one deadlocked election — and control of the Virginia House of Delegates — was decided by a hat drawing.
On Thursday, the Virginia Election Board declared Republican David Yancey as the election winner to represent Virginia’s 94th House District, as his name was picked out of a bowl.
The drawing concludes what may be the craziest election outcome in recent American history.
Following a wave election for Virginia Democrats, GOP members in Virginia’s House of Delegates saw their once-strong 66-43 majority drop to a razor slim 51-49 majority.
While Republicans were able to maintain control of Virginia’s state House by a single seat, many races were extremely close and Democrats initiated recounts in several elections — one of them being the 94th District.
State Del. Yancey had been representing the Newport News district since 2012, but endured the fight of his life last year when he defeated Democrat challenger Shelly Simonds by a mere 10-vote margin, the close outcome warranting an immediate recount.
Unfortunately for Yancey, the recount found Simonds to have won by a single vote, taking in 11,608 votes to Yancey’s 11,607.
Following the recount, most Republicans figured the race and their majority gone.
“After a close recount it appears the citizens of the 94th District have elected Shelly Simonds to the Virginia House of Delegates, pending confirmation by a three judge panel,” Virginia GOP House leadership said in a statement.
“We congratulate Delegate-elect Simonds and welcome her to this historic body. We also thank Delegate David Yancey for his distinguished service.”
All seemed lost for the once-strong GOP majority in the Virginia House of Delegates. Yancey’s loss would mean the partisan make-up in the legislative body would be exactly tied at 50-50, taking away the GOP’s majority control.
But then a panel of judges upended the decision by counting one disputed ballot in Yancey’s favor. The Republican’s team was able to successfully argue for the inclusion of one ballot that had been previously tossed aside because of marking discrepancies.
The ballot in question voted GOP at all levels, but appeared to accidentally fill in bubbles for both Yancey and Simonds, crossing out the bubble next to Simonds’ name. Whoever filled in the ballot appeared to be a down-the-line Republican voter who accidentally filled in Simonds’ name, but haphazardly tried to nix his mistake.
The panel’s decision to count this vote meant Yancey and Simonds were tied, both at 11,608 total votes. The ultimate winner, they announced, would be determined by winner of a hat drawing.
The resolution by Virginia officials to choose a winner by a random drawing came by following a 1705 law that deals with addressing tied elections.
Virginia Democrats were enraged by the decision.
“Today’s decision by the court was wrong, and Delegate-elect Shelly Simonds should have been certified the winner,” Marc Elias, their attorney, stated, according to Business Insider. “We are currently assessing all legal options before us as we fight for a just result.”
Nevertheless, the drawing took place Thursday, with Republican Yancey emerging victorious as his name was chosen.
“At this moment, I am not conceding, but I am reflecting on a very interesting and hard-fought campaign,” Simonds said after the drawing. “I’ve had a lot of good luck in my life so I have to be grateful for what I have.”
Amazingly, this is not the first time an election has been decided by a random drawing. In 2015, a Mississippi House seat was determined by candidates drawing straws. In 2006, a coin toss determined the primary winner for a House election in Alaska, according to CNN.
However, no other race has been so consequential.
With Yancey emerging as the winner in Virginia, Republicans in the state capitol’s lower chamber will be able to keep majority control for at least another two years before elections come again.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.