Judges deny Dem. motion to reconsider tied Va. House race

WASHINGTON — A recount court has denied Democrat Shelly Simonds’ request to reconsider its finding that Virginia’s 94th District House race ended in a tie at 11,608 votes.

The ruling, issued Wednesday, means the random drawing scheduled to decide the outcome of the recount between Simonds and Republican Del. David Yancey is set to move forward as planned Thursday morning barring any snow-related delays. (The Department of Elections said no schedule changes had been made yet.)

Simonds had asked the court to review its decision to accept a later-than-usual challenge to a key ballot from a GOP recount official and count the ballot for Yancey to create a tie. The court found that its initial decision, a day after Simonds thought she had won election by a single vote, was correct.

“The right of a citizen to cast a free vote has been secured to us by the blood of patriots shed from Lexington and Concord to Selma, Alabama,” the three-judge panel wrote in an 11-page opinion Wednesday. “The manifest injustice against which we must always guard is the chance that a single vote may not be counted. It matters not the importance of the disposition of a ballot in a given election; it matters the dignity of the citizen, the integrity of the electoral process, and the destiny of our constitutional republic.”

The decision to count the ballot for Yancey was based on a small line through the bubble filled in for Simonds. Yancey’s bubble was also filled in.

“The issue was whether the line through the mark was a scratch out. Webster’s Third International Dictionary defines “scratch” as follows: “to cancel by drawing a line through,” the judges wrote.

“The Court does not find that its ruling counting the challenged ballot as a vote for the Respondent to be clear error or to cause manifest injustice,” the opinion said.

If Yancey ends up winning the seat, Republicans expect to have a 51-49 majority. If Simonds winds, the House would be split 50-50.

In either case though, it is not clear that the winner of the drawing will be seated when the House convenes Jan. 10 since Republicans have argued the loser of the drawing is entitled to a second recount.

In a statement after the ruling, Simonds asked Yancey to agree that the loser of the drawing would not request another recount. Later in the day, Yancey rejected that request.

If a second recount is underway when the session begins next week, neither candidate is expected to be seated for the key votes on the speaker of the house and rules of the body for the next two years.

Democrats hope a federal judge in a separate case might keep Republican Bob Thomas from being seated in the 28th District due to dozens of people who voted in the wrong races in the Fredericksburg area. A hearing in that lawsuit is scheduled Friday.

If the judge were to keep Thomas from being seated, the rules would be set through negotiations between Republicans and Democrats under a 49-49 tie.

  • Q: What's on the ballot? Who can vote?
  • Only the candidates running for the Democratic nomination for president will be on the ballot. The list of candidates on the ballot includes some candidates who have already dropped out of the race.

    Virginia’s is an open primary — meaning any registered voter can cast a ballot regardless of their party registration.

    The Virginia Republican Party has notified the Virginia Department of Elections it will not hold a primary on March 3. President Donald Trump is running for reelection and is expected to be officially selected as the state party’s nominee at a party convention.

    Democratic and Republican primaries to select candidates for the U.S. House and Senate are set to take place June 9, 2020.

  • Q: What do I need to vote?
  • You must have been registered to vote at least 22 days before Election Day.

    When you show up to the polls, you will need to show a photo ID to vote in person. Acceptable forms of ID include:

    • Virginia driver’s license
    • Virginia DMV-issued photo ID
    • United States passport
    • Employer-issued photo ID
    • Virginia Voter Photo ID card
    • Other U.S. or Virginia government-issued photo ID
    • Student photo ID issued by a school, college or university located in Virginia
    • Tribal enrollment or other tribal photo ID

    If you show up to vote and don’t have ID, you will have to vote using a provisional ballot.

  • Q: Voting absentee?
  • The deadline for requesting an absentee ballot is Feb. 25. You can apply online for one, and register to vote if you aren’t already, at the Virginia Department of Election’s website, as well as in-person or by email, fax and standard mail.

    If you already signed up to vote absentee and received your ballot, you must turn it in to your voter registration office by 7 p.m. on Election Day. Absentee voters can also check the status of their ballot through the state’s online citizen portal.

  • Q: Need accommodations?
  • If you are 65 or older or you have a physical disability, you can vote from your car at your polling place on Election Day. The department of elections recommends you bring a helper with you who can go into the polling place and request curbside assistance.

  • Q: Who else is voting?
  • A lot of people. They don’t call it Super Tuesday for nothing. Virginia is one of 14 states plus American Samoa that are voting March 3.

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2020 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up