Last year’s race for state delegate in Newport News went down in Virginia history for its razor-thin margin. Republican David E. Yancey won on Election Day by 10 votes; Democrat Shelly Simonds beat him by a single vote in a recount. Then, a judicial panel declared a tie, so officials picked a name out of a bowl to determine a winner, and it was Yancey. Now, a review of voter registration records and district maps by The Washington Post has found more than two dozen voters — enough to swing the outcome of that race — cast ballots in the wrong district, because of errors by local elections officials. The misassigned voters lived in a predominantly African American precinct that heavily favored Democrats in the fall, raising the possibility that they would have delivered the district to Simonds had they voted in the proper race. The impact of a Simonds win would have been felt far beyond Newport News.
It would have upended the balance of power in the House of Delegates, splitting the chamber down the middle — 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats. Yancey’s victory allowed the GOP to maintain control by a 51-to-49 margin, even after Democrats picked up 15 seats in a blue wave widely seen as a rebuke to President Trump.
The November electoral mix-up was one of many scattered throughout the state. In an analysis published in January, The Post found about 6,000 registered Virginia voters were placed in the wrong state legislative district. Almost 2,600 of those misplaced voters cast ballots last November, according to a Post analysis of the recent data. While that’s a small fraction of the state’s 5.5 million registered voters, in close races like the Simonds-Yancey matchup, it could have made the difference.