Simonds to legally challenge 94th district tie

Simonds to legally challenge 94th district tie”

Democrat Shelly Simonds is calling on the Virginia Board of Elections to delay a drawing to randomly pick the victor of the tied race for a House of Delegates seat scheduled to take place on Wednesday, as she asks a circuit court to reconsider its recount on a single ballot.

After crying foul for almost a week over the recount process that created a tie in a Newport News-area House of Delegates race, Democrats are taking their arguments to court in an effort to potentially forestall Wednesday's random drawing to pick a victor.

Simonds won by one vote in a recount last week, but then a three- judge panel ruled a ballot was for Yancey, tying the race.

Virginia law says that in the event of a tie, the election board will determine the victor "by lot", after which point Republicans believe the loser can petition for another recount. But after a recount of the 23,000 ballots cast, Mrs. Simonds emerged as the apparent victor by a single vote.

The ballot itself could be read in a number of ways, the lawyers said, due to an "x" through Republican candidate Ed Gillespie's bubble in the race for governor and a small line emerging from the bubble next to Simonds' name in the 94th District.

This image provided by the City of Newport News via The Virginian-Pilot shows a copy of the ballot at the center of the recount dispute.

If Simonds were to win, Democrats will be sharing power with Republicans in the House (50-50). If Yancey wins, the Republicans will retain their majority by the slimmest possible margin.

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"The Court's decision to allow Respondent to challenge a ballot after the recount of all precincts had already concluded allowed Respondent to make an opportunistic end run around the statutorily prescribed procedures for recounts and was manifestly unjust", Simonds' lawyers argued. Their names, written on paper and tucked inside two film canisters, will be plucked from a 180-year-old turquoise pitcher that was excavated from under long-buried stables in Richmond's Capitol Square.

"The court and the state board of elections have plenty of time", said Ezra Reese, who is representing Mrs. Simonds. "The good news is we have lots of time before the seatings of candidates".

"This is such an important issue for the state of Virginia", she said.

"Were it not strictly applied, this Court - and any future recount courts - will be forced to reckon with all manner of requests for a third counting of ballots occasioned by pressure brought to bear on recount officials from any manner of sources", the lawyers wrote.

A group of recounters get some help filling out the paperwork as they re-tabulate ballots for the 94th District on December 19.

Republican recount official Kenneth Mallory had agreed during the initial recount process that the voter had indicated a vote on that final ballot for both candidates that could not be counted for either of them.

Before the November 7 elections, Republicans outnumbered Democrats in that chamber by 66 to 34. With Democrat Ralph Northam set to take over as governor on January 13, the party is primed to flex its newfound muscle.

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