RICHMOND, Va. (CN) – David Yancey, the incumbent Republican, on Thursday won the random drawing for a tied House of Delegates race in Virginia, meaning the GOP will retain control of the chamber.
The contest became one of the most closely watched races in the history of the Virginia both because the outcome would determine the political control of the state House and because of the arcane way it would be decided — with a name pulled from a ceramic bowl.
Virginia’s State Board of Election met shortly after 11 a.m. to settle the contest which pitted Yancey against Democrat Shelly Simonds. The method used to settled the race was a established by a 1705 Virginia law on tiebreakers: a lot drawing.
But even now, the race may not actually be over. Simonds still has the right to request another recount, although she said as recently as Wednesday that should would accept the outcome of the lot drawing.
As a major winter storm raged outside the building where the drawing was held, the names of both candidates were placed in film canisters and the canisters were then placed inside a blue and white ceramic bowl made by Virginia artist Steven Glass.
James Alcorn, chairman of the State elections board, then drew one of the canisters from the bowl, choosing Yancey.
As the Republican’s name was announced, Simonds sat stoically, holding the hands of her daughter and husband seated beside her.
She endured a long moment of silence as the elections officials certified Yancey as the winner. The only sound in the room was the clicking of cameras, most of which were trained on Simonds.
Her supporters left the room disappointed and she addressed the media.
“This is a sad conclusion for me,” she said.
However, she did not rule out asking for a recount, saying that her options were still on the table.
But there was a wrinkle: a single disallowed ballot. The recount was confirmed by election registrars, but the following day the previously disregarded ballot on which both candidates’ names was marked, was submitted to a three-judge panel for its consideration.
The panel decided the unknown voter had voted for Simonds by mistake and changed their ballot to choose Yancey.
That decision resulted in the 11,608-11,608 tie.
Simonds and state democrats challenged the vote which delayed today’s drawing, but their request to discount the ballot was rejected Wednesday night.
The outcome of state legislative race has been settled by drawing lots before.
In 1971, Republican William H. Moss Sr. appeared to lose the election for a seat in northern Virginia. But after a recount ended in a tie, Moss was declared the winner after a blindfolded state elections official pulled his name out of a large decorative cup, according to news reports at the time.
In 2006, a coin toss settled a primary for an Alaska House seat, and in 2015, a Mississippi was decided by the candidates drawing straws. In the latter case, however, the Democratic candidate’s win was quickly overturned by the Republican-controlled state House.
But the stakes have never been as high as they were in Virginia on Thursday.
In addition, there’s still another contested House race in Virginia. In November, Democrat Joshua Cole lost the race for House District 28 by 82 votes, but 147 ballots were cast in the wrong district. Cole and allies have since challenged the results in that race saying the incorrect ballots amount to voter disenfranchisement. State Democrats are pushing or a new special election to decide the winner.