Va. House district now tied after ballot review by panel of judges

Va. House district now tied after ballot review by panel of judges
© Shelly Simonds/YouTube

A three-judge panel has ruled that a Virginia state House race has ended in a tie one day after a recount appeared to show the Democratic candidate defeating the Republican incumbent by a single vote.

According to the The Virginian-Pilot, the three-judge panel, which was convened to certify the results of the recount in Virginia’s 94th District, agreed to examine a ballot that had been ruled as invalid during the recount after an official wrote a letter to the court saying the ballot should have been counted for Republican incumbent Del. David Yancey (R).

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“The court declares there is no winner in this election,” Circuit Court Judge Bryant Sugg said after the deliberation, according to The Washington Post.

The ballot reportedly was filled in for Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie, as well as the two GOP candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general. The ballot had bubbles filled in for both Yancey and Democratic challenger Shelly Simonds, but the bubble for Simonds had a slash through it, according to the Daily Press.

After arguments from lawyers on both sides, the three-judge panel ruled that the ballot should count as a vote for Yancey, thus leaving the district tied.

Tuesday’s recount unofficially gave Simonds a single-vote advantage over Yancey in the race after Simonds gained a net of 11 votes. But those results remained unofficial until certified by the panel.

According to the Daily Press, the recount will now go to the State Board of Elections to be certified. 

Virginia state law says in the event of a tie in a state House race, the winner is chosen “by lot,” which could include a coin toss, according to The Washington Post.

Virginia Department of Elections guidelines for hand counting printed ballots in recounts state “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 guidelines also stipulate that if the ballot contains “identical marks” for multiple candidates that are “clarified by an additional mark or marks that appear to indicate support,” then the ballot should be counted as a vote “for the candidate with the additional clarifying marks.”

The race carries enormous consequences for the Virginia House of Delegates. Republicans held a 51-49 margin in the House before the recount, and a victory by Simonds would have given Democrats 50 seats in the lower chamber for the first time in two decades.

- This report was updated at 3:25 p.m. EST