In a nation of 280 million people, 537 votes in the state of Florida tipped the 2000 presidential election to George W. Bush. Most observers weighed in with restatements of the obvious, that we will never again see such a close presidential election.
That may well be true, but Virginia has produced something perhaps even more astounding: a flat-footed tie in the last race for the House of Delegates that could well result in, you guessed it, a tie for control of that lower house of the state legislature. Or the Republicans in control. Or the Democrats. This is the stuff of novels.
That final delegate race between Democrat Shelly Simonds and Republican David Yancey in the city of Newport News yielded an automatic recount, which appeared to give the Democrat the slimmest possible margin of victory — 11,608 votes to 11,607. Democrats celebrated, for it would have given them control of the House of Delegates for the first time this century in a remarkable reversal of fortune, as they would have wiped out the GOP’s 67-33 seat advantage.
But wait. A judicial panel stepped in, awarded Republicans the one more vote they sought and ruled the election a flat-footed tie. So now, with Republicans holding a tenuous 50-49 advantage in the State House, control of the legislature will be decided the old-fashioned way.
By lot. Same as a coin flip. Seriously. It’s the law.
The drawing of lots was scheduled for Wednesday, but has now been delayed due to a new legal challenge by the Democrats. Assuming the court upholds the tie vote, the Republicans will control the State House if they pick the right lot. If the Democrats pick the winning lot, that body will be split 50-50, and some form of power-sharing arrangement will have to be worked out (unlike Congress, there is no Vice-President to break ties). But, the Democrats could still win control of the legislature if they pick the right lot and succeed in their legal challenge of yet another Delegate race with a razor-thin margin.
Whew! Can you repeat all that three times fast? Let’s see the pollsters try to predict this one.
For the many who feel their single vote doesn’t count, let this be a lesson to you. Fact is, if just 538 Republicans in the Sunshine State felt that way and had not bothered to vote in 2000, we would have had President Al Gore, and the entire trajectory of American history would have changed. We would never have had a second President Bush and we may well not have gotten Presidents Barack Obama or Donald Trump.
But this situation in Virginia really brings home the message, for if one, just one more Republican in Newport News had decided to go to the polling booth instead of the neighborhood bar, Republicans would now maintain control the body that initiates law. One more Democrat voting instead of trolling social media would have assured his party of an equal share of control.
Once again, truth really is stranger than fiction – as we witnessed in the 2016 election. Stay with LN as we report on the outcome of this rarest of political circumstances.