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Oxford native who lost random drawing for House seat promotes ‘every vote counts’

Every vote counts was the message Shelly Simonds brought back to her hometown Tuesday when she spoke to a group about her election loss last fall for a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates.

Simonds’ opponent was declared the winner on election night. In a recount, however, she was declared the winner by one vote. The issue was taken before a panel of judges who allowed a questionable vote to be counted for her opponent, creating the tie and leading to the final decision where her opponent’s name was drawn out of a bowl.

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Advocating for a get-out-the-vote approach to this year’s election, Simonds said she has decided to run again for the House of Delegates and encouraged local residents to work for voter turnout this November.

“Find a teenager and help them register to vote. Find someone who says they do not have time to vote and get them to vote,” the Democrat said.

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Simonds’ appearance was part of an event hosted by the Butler County Progressive PAC.

Simonds’ father, George, served 32 years as an Oxford Twp. trustee and is no stranger to close races. His first attempt at township office came in 1968, he said, when he lost the race for Oxford Twp. Clerk by 10 votes.

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Simonds, a member of her community’s school board in Virginia, began her comments Tuesday for an audience at Left Field Tavern by saying she is known locally as a Talawanda High School graduate and as George and Mickey’s daughter, but now, “I am now the poster child for Every Vote Counts.”

“One vote was the difference in the balance of power,” she said, adding that a 50-50 House of Delegates would have meant power sharing and more bills getting out of committee and onto the floor for open discussion rather than one party deciding what issues are worth talking about.

The aftermath of the election also “ landed me in the news around the world,” she said.

She drew a laugh when she told of a “surprise interview” with the BBC. She was driven in a limo from her home one morning for what she thought was an interview with one of the cable news networks..

While preparing for the interview at a local television studio, she recalled: “In my earpiece, I heard someone say, ‘Don’t worry, Shelly, you’ll be live in London in 60 seconds.’ ”

In retracing the history of her election, which she said “had gone into epic territory,” Simonds said she was focused on what she learned growing up in Ohio: telling the truth. She decided not to appeal the outcome to the Virginia State Supreme Court but to make her case in her interviews.

“The culmination was drawing lots in bowls. I knew it would be rough, but at the end of the day, it was not about me. It was about my community,” she said.

She told of still being approached by people who failed to vote that day and emphasized the one-vote-counts theme. She told of an employee at Trader Joe’s who began crying in the produce section when he told her he had not voted. A woman told her she had collapsed at the polls and was taken to the hospital before being able to vote.

“We need to work together to get everyone out to vote at all levels and get ready for a big election night,” she said. “I keep running. We keep running. We keep knocking on doors. We continue until there are more women, until there are more minorities, elected across the country.”

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