Nothing pisses me off more than the the people I encounter who tell me they don’t bother to vote because they feel their vote doesn’t count. By not voting, they ensure that this is true.

One of the first house races I worked on in Arizona many years ago was decided in favor of the Democratic candidate by something like 28 votes after an automatic recount.  Don’t tell me that every vote doesn’t count.

Cartoon_13The “blue wave” election in Virginia in November had several state legislative races remaining to be decided by a recount. On Tuesday, one recount was decided by a single vote. And that legislative race gave Democrats shared power in the Virginia legislature. In Virginia, a 11,608-to-11,607 Lesson in the Power of a Single Vote:

The Democratic wave that rose on Election Day in Virginia last month delivered a final crash on the sand Tuesday when a Democratic challenger defeated a Republican incumbent by a single vote, leaving the Virginia House of Delegates evenly split between the two parties.

The victory by Shelly Simonds, a school board member in Newport News, was a civics lesson in every-vote-counts as she won 11,608 to 11,607 in a recount conducted by local election officials.

Ms. Simonds’s win means a 50-50 split in the State House, where Republicans had clung to a one-seat majority after losing 15 seats last month in a night of Democratic victories up and down the ballot, which were widely seen as a rebuke to President Trump. Republicans have controlled the House for 17 years.

“I just can’t believe it, but it sounds like it’s pretty solid,” an excited Ms. Simonds, speaking from a bar with the sounds of celebration in the background, told reporters on a conference call. She said she was in awe of the recount process, an example of what she called good government, in which there were no arguments between Democrats and Republican observers. “It was a beautiful thing to see democracy in action.”

Although results are not official until certified by a three-judge panel on Wednesday, state Democrats declared victory, and Republican leaders in the House congratulated Ms. Simonds. “There were no challenged ballots so nothing for the court to review,” leaders of the Democratic caucus said in a statement.

“Fifty-fifty is an unprecedented event in the 400-year history of the House of Delegates,” said David J. Toscano, the House Democratic leader.

Ms. Simonds’s single-vote victory will enter election annals along with rare other razor-thin majorities. In Mississippi last year, a State House race that ended in a tie was decided in favor of the Democrat by a drawing of straws, before being reversed by a Republican partisan challenge in the State Legislature.

Iowa has been known to use coin tosses to settle tied results in its presidential caucuses. In the 2000 presidential election, when a complicated paper ballot in Florida led officials to examine “hanging chads” with eyepieces and only 537 votes separated George W. Bush from Al Gore, the Supreme Court ultimately made the call a month after Election Day.

* * *

Democrats are still contesting one race with an 82-vote margin in a district where 147 people received the wrong ballots. A lawsuit requesting a new election is in the courts. If the Democratic candidate, Joshua Cole, somehow ends up the victor, that would give his party a 51-49 majority in the House.

Still, the divided chamber was welcome news to Governor-elect Ralph Northam, a Democrat who as of January will not have to face Republican majorities in both houses of the General Assembly like his outgoing predecessor, Gov. Terry McAuliffe. Virginia Republicans narrowly control the State Senate, whose members were not on the ballot this year, 21 to 19.

But control of the evenly divided House could be awkward. In the Senate, the lieutenant governor can break a tie; there is no such mechanism in the House. The choice of a House speaker must be negotiated between the parties. Power sharing is likely to lead to more bipartisan deals.

Mr. Toscano called the selection of the next House speaker “the question of the night” but added that who holds the gavel is less important than deciding which legislation advances. He and others suggested Democrats would be able to advance long-stifled priorities like health care and the minimum wage.

* * *

Republican House leaders expressed the desire to work with colleagues across the aisle. “We stand ready to establish a bipartisan framework under which the House can operate efficiently and effectively over the next two years,” the Republican leadership said in a statement.

Ms. Simonds is not the first member of the Virginia House to pull off an improbably close victory.

In 1991, a former Virginia delegate named Jim Scott won a race by one vote and was nicknamed “Landslide Jim.” On Tuesday, Ms. Simonds embraced the same name. “You can call me Landslide Shelly as long as you call me delegate,” she said.

In Arizona’s gubernatorial election in 2014, total statewide voter turnout was only 47.52 percent — less than half of the registered voters who took the time to register to vote — the lowest voter turnout since 1942 (during WWII) with the exception of an abberration year in 1998 with a voter turnout of only 45.82 percent, in the election of Governor Jane Dee Hull.

For all those people who like to bitch and moan about our Koch-bot Governor Doug Ducey and our lawless Tea-Publican legislature but who do not vote, YOU are the problem and YOU can be the solution, if only you would exercise your franchise to vote. Every vote does count.

Democracies die from indifference and neglect. Register to vote — you can do it online at ServiceAriona — and then exercise your franchise to vote. No more excuses!

UPDATE: One day after a recount said a Democrat won a state House race by a single vote — which would have ended 17 years of GOP dominance in the chamber — a panel of judges ruled that a questionable ballot should be counted in favor of the Republican, tying the race. Virginia court tosses one-vote victory that briefly ended GOP majority in House:

Control of Virginia’s legislature hung in limbo Wednesday after a three-judge panel declined to certify the recount of a key House race, saying that a questionable ballot should be counted in favor of the Republican and tying a race that Democrats thought they had won by a single vote.

“The court declares there is no winner in this election,” Newport News Circuit Court Judge Bryant L. Sugg said after the panel deliberated for more than two hours.

He said that the ballot in question contained a mark for Democrat Shelly Simonds as well as a mark for Republican Del. David Yancey but that the voter had made another mark to strike out Sim­onds’s name.

That is not accurate.

Typically an “overvote,” voting for two candidates in a ‘choose one” race, is not counted because the “intent of the voter” cannot be determined from the ballot. In this case, the court is inferring that an additional mark through the ballot bubble means the voter struck that candidate.

As you can see on the ballot, the voter also made an additional mark through the ballot bubble for Ed Gillespie, the only candidate marked for governor. So does that mean the voter intended not to cast any vote for governor? Or rather to signify their strong support for that candidate, in which case the court’s inference is wrong. Was the vote for governor counted or struck? The only fair thing to do is to not count this overvote ballot because the intent of the voter cannot be determined.

Ballot_190

Officials presiding over the five-hour recount on Tuesday had discarded that ballot en route to a historic reversal of the original election outcome. Yancey had emerged from Election Day with a 10-vote lead in the 94th District, but the recount uncovered enough additional ballots for Simonds to give her a one-vote victory.

That seemed to set up the House for a rare 50-50 split between Republicans and Democrats, ending 17 years of GOP dominance and making headlines nationwide.

But Republicans challenged that decision in court Wednesday, saying the voter had selected every other Republican on the ballot and intended to vote for Yancey.

The judges — all of whom were elected by a Republican-
controlled legislature — agreed, leaving the race tied at 11,608 votes each for Yancey and Simonds. The balance of power in the House stands at 50-49 in favor of Republicans until the Newport News race can be resolved.

State law says the winner of a tied House race will be determined by lot — leaving the fate of the chamber to what is essentially a coin toss.

James Alcorn, chairman of the State Board of Elections, said the winner will probably be chosen by placing names on slips of paper into two film canisters and then drawing the canisters from a glass bowl (or his bowler hat). He said he is conferring with staff to figure out the date and method.

But it doesn’t end there. If the loser of the coin toss is unhappy with that result, he or she can seek a second recount.

So let’s say that karma prevails and the Democrat wins the coin toss. You can bet that the Republican will ask for another recount.

 

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