Some elected officials win their seats through election victories. Others have their name drawn from an actual bowl. Republican David Yancey was re-elected to his seat in Virginia's House of Delegates on Thursday after a tie with Democratic candidate Shelly Simonds led a state official to draw a name from a bowl to decide who would get the seat.
Yancey's win gives Republicans a slim 51-49 majority in the state's House of Delegates and ends a long drawn out race for the 94th District. According to Time, an initial count of the ballots in November named three-term incumbent Yancey as the winner by 10 votes. A recount conducted in December, however, gave the seat to Simonds with a lead of just one vote. But still the election for the 94th District wasn't over.
Just one day after a recount declared Simonds the victor, a panel of three judges declared a tie between the two candidates after examining one ballot, which had marks next to both candidates' names. The judges ultimately decided that although bubbles next to both candidates' names had been filled in, a slash through Simonds' bubble meant the ballot went to Yancey, NPR reported. Although Democrats in the state asked for the disputed ballot to be reviewed and tossed out due to the ballot's unclear nature, a court denied their request.
To decide the tie, state officials organized a lot. But as weird as it may sound, drawing a name to break a tie is actually state law. As the Code of Virginia states:
If two or more persons have an equal number of votes for any county, city, town, or district office, and a higher number than any other person, the electoral board shall proceed publicly to determine by lot which of the candidates shall be declared elected.
The law also states that any candidate who loses the determination by lot "may petition for a recount."
To make the lot as fair and random as possible, a slip of paper with Yancey's name was placed in one film canister while a slip of paper with Simonds' name was placed in an identical second film canister. An official from Virginia's State Board of Elections then selected one of the film canisters from a decorative bowl. The other film canister was also opened and the slip of paper inside read to show proof that the names of both candidates had been included in the lot.
This is reportedly not the first time Virginia officials have had to resort to pulling names in a lot to break a tie in the House of Delegates. According to CBS News, state officials were forced to draw a name from a cup in 1971 to determine the winner of a tied House race in Fairfax County. Selection by lot is also a common way for the Virginia State Board of Election to determine which order political parties will appear on statewide ballots.
As of Thursday afternoon it remained unclear if Simonds would petition for a recount following Yancey's victory in the lot drawing.
"We made an offer to make the draw tomorrow final, which Yancey has declined," Simonds wrote in a tweet published Wednesday. "Just to be clear: no deal means all options are still on the table for us moving forward."
Interestingly enough, District 94 wasn't the only district to come under dispute following elections for Virginia's House of Delegates. According to NPR, Democrats in District 28 have petitioned a federal judge for a new election after a number of voters were assigned to vote in the wrong districts. A hearing is scheduled for Friday.