If 2016's presidential election weren't proof enough, a Virginia House of Delegates recount breaking for the Democrat — by a single vote — proved that every vote really does matter. That shifts the seat from Republican to Democratic control, upending the balance of power in the state capitol. On Tuesday, election officials, volunteer observers, and lawyers gathered in Newport News to go over the vote totals for the 94th district of the Virginia House of Delegates. Preliminary vote totals showed the Republican candidate held a lead of 10 votes. But in the end, Democrat Shelly Simonds won by just one vote, with a final tally of 11,608 to 11,607.
UPDATE: On Wednesday, a judicial ruling declared one additional vote for the Republican candidate, bringing the results to a tie. Now, per Virginia law, the winner will be decided "by lot," meaning, essentially, that both candidates have a 50-50 chance in a random draw.
EARLIER: The news will be welcomed not just by the state's Democratic Party, but also high school civics teachers and voting rights advocates. Newport News Electoral Board Chairman Sean Devlin even asked reporters gathered at the recount that they "please make sure to stress" how just one vote truly can make a difference, The Washington Post reported.
Counting Simonds' seat, the House of Delegates is now tied 50 to 50 between the two parties. The implications are huge. Republicans had controlled the chamber for 17 years. Now they will enter into a power-sharing arrangement with the Democrats. Unlike in the state Senate, which Republicans control 21 to 20, there is no tie-breaking vote from the lieutenant governor. State Democrats and the GOP need to work out who will be speaker and advance bipartisan legislation.
Technically the vote count is not final until Wednesday, but the Dems were already celebrating and the state GOP went ahead and congratulated Simonds.
"We congratulate Delegate-elect Simonds and welcome her to this historic body. We also thank Delegate David Yancey for his distinguished service," read an email from House Majority Leader M. Kirkland Cox and other leaders in the state Republican party, according to the Post.
Cox struck a conciliatory tone about upcoming power sharing. "The responsibilities of the House of Delegates as an institution transcend party labels, and our obligations to govern this Commonwealth remain," the email continued. "We stand ready to establish a bipartisan framework under which the House can operate efficiently and effectively over the next two years."
In a conference call with reports, Simonds seemed pleasantly surprised by her win, The New York Times reported.
I just can't believe it, but it sounds like it's pretty solid.
This was not the first time that someone squeaked out a win through a recount in Virginia. The Post recalled a 1991 race contested by a Democrat named Jim Scott. He came from 17 votes behind to win by one vote, earning him the nickname "Landslide Jim." Simonds was aware of the story and told reporters Tuesday.
"I may become Landslide Shelly," she said on the conference call, according to the Post. "As long as they call me delegate, I'm okay with it."
The shifting balance of power in the state legislature could result in an expansion of Medicaid and other progressive causes, according to Dr. Bob Holsworth, a political analyst for Richmond station WTVR-TV.
"It's going to work to the benefit of the Democrats. Issues that the democrats have long waited and been stifled by Republicans may have more of an opportunity for passage than they did previously," Holsworth told the station.
Governor-elect Ralph Northam is under a lot of pressure from the progressive wing of the state Democratic party to make that happen. He said over the weekend he might be willing to work with Republicans to expand Medicaid outside of the Affordable Care Act. But he was forced to backpedal, and doubled down on supporting it.
Now he's congratulated Simonds on Twitter:
[C]ongratulations @shelly_simonds. Looking forward to partnering with you to make life better for every Virginian, no matter who you are, no matter where you live.
With Dems tied in the House, his agenda became that much easier. As he put it on Twitter, "every vote matters."