Republican David Yancey was elected to Virginia's House of Delegates when his name was drawn from a bowl in a tie-breaker.

NBC News/YouTube

Republican wins Virginia state seat after random drawing from a bowl

The law allowing lottery drawings dates back to 1705.


Kris Seavers


Posted on Dec 19, 2017   Updated on May 22, 2021, 7:25 am CDT

In an electoral scrimmage that included a recount and more than a month of legal back-and-forth, Republican David Yancey won a seat in Virginia’s House of Delegates on Thursday. His victory was decided when his name was drawn from a ceramic bowl.

The Virginia Board of Elections used the power of a law dating back to 1705 to break the tie through a random lottery.

Last month, a recount put Democratic candidate Shelly Simonds ahead by one vote—11,608 to 11,607—against incumbent Yancey in the state’s District 94, the Virginian Pilot reported. 

“I would’ve been much more at peace with ending this on a game of chance if I hadn’t won the recount,” Simonds told VICE News. “I feel like there’s still a real old boys network in Virginia, and this is the legacy of that.”

The election was notable because Simonds’ victory would have been the first time in 18 years that Republicans haven’t held a majority in the state’s lower legislative chamber. Simonds’ win would have tipped the balance of power in the House of Delegates from a 51-49 Republican majority to a 50/50 split of Republicans and Democrats.

Observers were astonished by what at the time looked like a one-vote win for Simonds, and many saw it as a reminder that every vote counts.

Virginia Democrats requested recounts for four races in November. A lawsuit is still pending over the race between Republican Bob Thomas and Democrat Joshua Cole. If the court decision ends up in Cole’s favor, Democrats could still take majority control of the House of Delegates.

In November, Virginia elected a Democratic governor as well as its first openly transgender state lawmaker, Danica Roem.

H/T Huffington Post

Update 2:35am CT Dec. 20: A panel of three judges refused to certify the one-vote victory, saying a questionable ballot that was thrown out should have gone to Republican David Yancey. After a two-hour deliberation, the court found that there was “no winner” in the race.

In Virginia, the winners of tied races are chosen by lot. In this case, the chairman of the state board of elections James Alcorn said they would likely draw the name from a bowl.

However, the loser of that drawing can request a recount if they please.

The date of the drawing was set for Jan. 4.


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*First Published: Dec 19, 2017, 8:37 pm CST