The results in Virginia’s elections for our 100 House of Delegates seats last Tuesday were nothing short of a massive tsunami that people will write and talk about for years. (There’s more about that in my post Anatomy of a Wave Election.) Few believed that the Democrats could recruit so many great candidates, spread the field so effectively, and marshal resources necessary to help carry 15 candidates over the finish line. Republicans quickly attempted to portray the election as if nothing had changed, issuing press releases that they still control the majority – not so fast! There are at least two districts where the results are still in doubt, and on these two seats rests the actual majority in the House of Delegates.
94th District — Newport News
In the 94th House District (Newport News), Shelly Simonds got into the race late and mounted a furious campaign to unseat incumbent David Yancey. She is now down just 10 votes and headed into a recount. Democrats are optimistic that she can pick up the required votes to win the election and be seated in January. If so, fifty Democratic delegates would be sworn in, changing the already-altered dynamic to one that clearly favors the Democrats. That recount will likely take place in late November or early December.
28th District — Fredericksburg/Stafford County
A much more complicated situation exists in the 28th House District (Fredericksburg/Stafford County). In that district, the registrar and two Electoral Board members decided not to count 55 absentee ballots, including some from military service people stationed overseas, which apparently arrived in the registrar’s post office box before 7:00 pm on Tuesday, November 7, but were not picked up until the next day. The registrar claimed that they had not been received timely and therefore could not be counted. A lawsuit has been filed to require the counting of these ballots. To think that the registrar would interpret the law so as to disenfranchise voters, possibly including some who serve our country, is shocking in this day and age.
Perhaps more significant, however, is a separate issue: we are exploring the possibility that as many as 660 voters were disenfranchised by being given the wrong ballots to vote. Fredericksburg has several “split precincts,” where the lines between two delegate districts run through a voting precinct. This requires the registrar and voting officials to provide different ballots to different people who live in separate House districts but are voting in the same precinct, a challenge that would not exist but for Republicans’ effective use of gerrymandering to carve up districts to their advantage. In Fredericksburg, polling officials may have given ballots to hundreds of people who live in the 28th District that instead listed the candidates for Delegate in the 88th District, thereby preventing them from casting a vote for their candidate of choice to represent the 28th. If hundreds of voters were disenfranchised, it would raise serious issues about the validity of the election in the 28th District, where Democratic candidate Joshua Cole is only 82 votes behind his Republican opponent. Voters in that district may choose to file a lawsuit claiming that they had a right to cast votes in their correct district and to have their votes counted; if so, the remedies for such an egregious error might include an entirely new election.
40th District — Fairfax & Prince William Counties
There may be one additional recount in the 40th District (Fairfax & Prince William Counties), where Democratic candidate Dante Tanner trails the Republican incumbent by 106 votes, or less than 0.4%. The candidate has not yet made a decision about whether to request a recount.
The Republicans keep claiming that they have held the majority, but that is not yet clear. There is a long way to go, and which party will ultimately have the majority is still an open question.