The first of four recounts in legislative races — which could change political control of the Virginia House of Delegates — began Wednesday in a courthouse in Fairfax County. That’s where Republican Del. Timothy D. Hugo holds a 106-vote edge over Democrat Donte Tanner in the 40th House District, which straddles Fairfax and Prince William counties. Republicans are holding onto their majority in the Virginia House of Delegates by a hair — they have just a two-seat advantage over Democrats in the lower chamber. Any one of the four contests under the microscope could tip the balance — including the contest with the slimmest margin, where Republican Del. David E. Yancey beat Democratic challenger Shelly Simonds by just 10 votes.
Election officials and representatives of the candidates will be immersed in arcane election law as they try to decipher the intent of voters who didn’t properly fill out ballots. For example, if someone wrote “MY MAN” over the favored candidate’s name instead of filling in the adjacent circle, that ballot is valid, according to the state board of elections. But if a voter tried to rank candidates numerically, that ballot is considered improper.
Recounts rarely change results. But this year also saw more close House races than any other election in recent memory. And with the chamber currently split 51 to 49, with Republicans leading, a single Democratic pickup would force a power-sharing agreement while two more seats would allow the Democrats to take control for the first time since 1998.