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Luck of the draw helps Republicans hold Virginia House

Virginia Republicans cheered Thursday when their candidate won a state House of Delegates race by luck of the draw, having his name chosen first out of ceramic bowl.

But inside a conference room in Richmond’s Capitol Square, where the drawing was held, it was all agony of defeat and no joy of victory. That’s because Republican David Yancey skipped the drawing, while Democratic challenger Shelley Simonds and many of her supporters absorbed it in stunned silence.

The drawing of lots took place after an election, recount and legal battles between Yancey and Simonds ended in a tie. Yancey’s win allows Republicans to maintain a slim majority in the House, though a final tally is still uncertain.

The drawing drew a large, if lopsided, crowd to the Virginia elections board meeting. Many were either reporters or Simonds’ supporters.

So the focus was entirely on Simonds, who sat stoically as the commission ran through the ceremony. The name of each candidate, printed on a piece of paper, was placed into separate film canisters. The canisters were put into a cobalt-blue-and-white ceramic bowl made by a local artist and stirred around.

Board Chairman James Alcorn pulled one of the canister’s out and read the winner’s name: “David Yancey.”

Without him there, all eyes fell on Simonds.

She stayed still and kept looking straight ahead, not giving any initial reaction. After a few seconds, she looked at her 15-year-daughter Georgia, and said, “it’s ok.”

The room that had been buzzing with excitement moments before went silent, save for the rapid click of the cameras trained on Simonds.

Much of the crowd, filled with state workers and aides to Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Gov.-elect Ralph Northam, quickly filed out.

After a few minutes, Simonds gave an impromptu news conference.

“This is a sad conclusion for me,” she said, sounding a lot like she was conceding defeat.

But when asked, she explicitly said her options — including a recount request, were still on the table.

For his part, Yancey’s only comments came on social media , where he congratulated Simonds on a “hard fought election.”

He left the speaking to House Republican Leader Kirk Cox and his top deputy, Del. Todd Gilbert, who were in much higher spirits when they met with reporters outside the House chamber.

“The takeaway from today is, we will be in the majority on the first day,” Cox said, referring to the 2018 legislative session that starts next week.

Republicans currently control the chamber 51-49. If Simonds pursued a recount, if wouldn’t be complete before the session starts and Cox said neither Yancey nor Simonds would be seated until a winner was finalized. That would still allow Republicans to elect a speaker and make committee assignments based on a 50-49 advantage.

The race between Yancey, a three-term incumbent, and Simonds has bounced back and forth since the November election, when Virginia Democrats — fueled by voter anger directed at Republican President Donald Trump — wiped out a 66-34 advantage held by Republicans in the House. The election has been widely seen as a potential harbinger of the 2018 midterm congressional elections.

Simonds appeared to have lost the November election by 10 votes, but on Dec. 19, she won a recount by a single vote. The next day, a three-judge panel declared a tie based on a previously uncounted vote for Yancey.

At the heart of the dispute is a single ballot on which the voter filled in the bubble for both Simonds and Yancey. The voter also drew a single slash through the bubble for Simonds and picked Republican candidates in statewide races.

The ballot wasn’t counted during the recount and was identified after a Republican election official raised concerns the following day.

After the drawing Thursday, election board members asked the public to make sure that they correctly fill out ballots in future contests.

The balance of power in the House could shift again because a lawsuit is pending over the results of another House race in Northern Virginia. Democrat Joshua Cole lost to Republican Bob Thomas by 73 votes in a recount. But voters filed a federal lawsuit after at least 147 ballots were found to be assigned to the wrong districts. A federal court hearing on that election is scheduled for Friday.


Votes are not evenly distributed across areas.  Just like California has a higher concentration of blue votes, areas like Arlington and Norfolk have higher concentrations of blue votes as well (maybe 80%).  Since Republicans may win districts by lower margins (55-45), it is very plausible that Democrats have an advantage statewide but can’t win a majority of votes.

Look up the difference between majority/plurality election systems and representational systems.  I would think that a teacher would have plenty of time during snow days to learn how election systems work.

SGP, I don’t usually engage with ideologues but in your case I’ll make an exception.

California isn’t gerrymandered and they tend to elect Democrats.  Sure, that’s a fact but it’s irrelevant to a discussion about gerrymandering in Virginia.  In the most recent election, Democrats polled much stronger than Republicans but may not even eke out a split.  Do you see the difference? 

If you do move past the smokescreen and actually look into the issue, you’ll see that voting rights are restored to felons who have completed their sentences and any period of supervision required by the courts.  Isn’t that what “Corrections” are all about?

@LoudounClear, google “Va. Gov. Terry McAuliffe Restores Voting Rights of Felons”

Are you seriously suggesting that felons don’t vote Democrat?

Btw, gerrymandering is drawing district lines with the sole intent of favoring one party. However, certain regions have always heavily supported one party and thus undermine your thesis. Take California. It is not “gerrymandered” but it will always vote 65%+ for a Democrat for president.

I am not saying gerrymandering doesn’t exist just like you didn’t say felons don’t tend to vote Democrat. But just like we (and our schools) should be showing students what constitutes proof vs conjecture, your facts are woefully insufficient.

SGP, I can prove gerrymandering in Virginia by cold, impartial mathematics.  Vote totals in the most recent election in Virgina show that in aggregate, Democrats bested the GOP in House of Delegates races by better than 9%...and yet, the best the Dems could do was a 50-50 split (later negated by that coin flip).  How can that be? Gerrymandering, of course.

Can you point us to the facts behind your assertion?

LoudounClear, I think a more apropos headline would be ” Convicted felon voters not enough to elect Democrat, Republican wins by coin flip”

I have tried to keep an open mind, but I cannot come to peace with liberal / democratic ideology.  I implore others to begin organizing outside the political arena for what appears to be a looming civil war.

I just don’t think we are ever going to reconcile with utopians.  History proves this point again and again and again.

Headline should read, “Luck of the Draw saves Gerrymandered Win for GOP”

I love how it was reported that Yancey “skipped” the drawing.  He was delayed due to the snow.  What ever happened to honest reporting, might have to call this “fake news”, definitely a case of another reporter upset with the outcome

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