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Virginia GOP says draw cemented House majority

Virginia GOP says draw cemented House majority

As Democrats and Republicans continued partisan sniping Friday over a House seat that could determine the balance of power in the Virginia House of Delegates, state elections officials moved to break the deadlock by scheduling a random drawing to pick the victor.

Despite big gains by Democrats in the November election, Republicans are likely to control the House by a margin of 51-49, giving them the ability to set rules, pick committee chairs and ultimately decide what bills make it to the floor for a vote.

The drawing of lots happened after the race between Yancey and Democratic challenger Shelley Simonds ended in tie.

That's when a drawing is to be held at the state Board of Elections to determine the victor of the race for a Newport News House seat.

The candidates' names were written on slips of paper and placed in black film canisters, which election officials said were ordered fresh from Amazon for the occasion. The canisters were put into a cobalt-blue-and-white ceramic bowl made by a local artist, stirred around and Yancey's name was chosen first.

"This election has certainly shown the importance of every vote and the power of one single vote", James Alcorn, chairman of the State Board of Elections, said according to USA Today. "So this delay is squarely on him", she said Friday.

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

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

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The Democrat who lost a drawing of lots for a Virginia legislative seat says it's a sad conclusion for her but she is still considering her options.

Cox's comments came shortly after Del. Todd Gilbert, who were in much higher spirits when they met with reporters outside the House chamber.

Control of the House of Delegates is at stake. 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 victor was finalized. The election has been widely seen as a potential harbinger of the 2018 midterm congressional elections. That would leave Republicans with a 50-49 majority as the session opens. Then Simonds believed she had won the race by one vote the day ballots were recounted.

Officially, a recount found that Republican Robert Thomas Jr. captured 73 more votes than Democrat Joshua Cole in the 28th House District race to succeed retiring GOP House Speaker William J. Howell, but the error has called the result into question. The next day, a three-judge panel declared a tie based on a previously uncounted vote for Yancey. The candidates are incumbent Republican David Yancey and Democrat Shelly Simonds.

The Perkins Coie attorneys also criticized the city's response to reports of incorrect ballots on Election Day, writing that officials would not let the affected voters cast provisional ballots or "take any remedial steps to address the issue".

After the drawing Thursday, election board members asked the public to make sure that they correctly fill out ballots in future contests. However, the race may not be settled yet-Simonds is still eligible to ask for another recount, and she has not yet announced what she intends to do.

The lawsuit sought a new election in the 28th District seat representing parts of Stafford County and Fredericksburg, claiming 147 voters were given ballots for the wrong House District.

The first court hearing in the case is on Friday, January 5, and voters want the current victor of the election, Republican Bob Thomas, to be prevented from being seated in the legislature until the issue is completely sorted out.


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