Last year’s election for a Virginia House seat, which ended in a tie and was decided by a lottery drawing, drew national headlines and involved a woman who grew up here.
Shelly Simonds lost that election after a judge allowed a ballot to be counted for her opponent, throwing the count into a tie which was decided by drawing the winner’s name out of a bowl.
Simonds grew up in Oxford, the daughter of George and Mickey Simonds, and now lives in Virginia with her husband and two daughters. She is returning to Oxford for two public appearances this week.
“We are celebrating a woman from Oxford who has gone on to be a focal point of the change America needs,” Butler County Progressive PAC President Steve Jamison said of the event.
Simonds endured a roller-coaster post-election last year which saw her first lose by 10 votes, then be declared the winner by one vote and then have a court declare one ambiguous vote in favor of her opponent, making the election a tie. Republican Dave Yancey then was declared the winner when their names were placed in film canisters and his name drawn from a bowl.
The two were running for a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates, which prior to the election had been controlled by Republicans by a 66-34 margin. If Simonds had been seated, the House would have been split 50-50, requiring shared power and more public debate on issues, she said in an interview in January.
Yancey’s being seated in the 94th district allowed them to maintain control, 51-49.
“Our election determined whether there would be power sharing. Power sharing would have been positive for Virginia,” Simonds said in January. “The way Virginia works, (committees are proportional). There is a lot of committee work and many ideas never make it to the floor for public debate. A lot of good ideas die that way. Fifty-fifty sharing of committees would mean a lot of good ideas would get out of committee and get to a vote on the floor of the house.”
The official election results showed Simonds and Yancey tied at 11,608 votes but the original election-night count had Yancey winning by ten votes. A Dec. 19 recount, however, had Simonds ahead by one vote. It was then Yancey supporters “pulled a stunt,” according to Simonds and went to court to get one ballot declared viable.
A three-judge panel ruled in his favor and the election became a tie.
“The story kept changing. At one point, it was only a recount. Then, it became a story of the way one vote counts and a miracle. Then, it turned sinister when the judges got involved,” Simonds said. “They broke the rules for a recount. They violated state law. They can only count a ballot once but they went back several times. It is an important tenet of recounts in Virginia they do not want people going back and recounting neighborhoods again.”