When Dawnn Wallace learned that the election in her Newport News House of Delegates district would be decided by drawing a name from a bowl, she was “flabbergasted” to learn that was the state’s process for breaking ties. Wallace said she was among the 23,216 people who voted in the 94th House District race last year, only to see the outcome decided by pure luck when a recount showed Republican Del. David Yancey and Democrat Shelly Simonds both finishing with 11,608 votes. “I can tell you that nobody would want a football game decided by a coin flip. Or a basketball game decided by a jump ball. Or a hockey game decided by which team had the most teeth knocked out at the end of the game,” Wallace said. “If the game is tied at the end of regulation, it goes into overtime.” Wallace joined Del. Marcia S. Price, D-Newport News, Wednesday at the Capitol as Price announced she’ll push to change state law so that elections are decided via the political equivalent of overtime: runoff elections.
Price’s legislation, House Bill 1581, would call for a judge to “promptly” order a special election if a recount ends in a tie.
“This special election would allow for the decision to lie, not with luck and not with elected leaders, but with the people,” Price said at a news conference where she was joined by several other Democratic lawmakers and members of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus.
The tiebreaker rule would not apply to elections for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, because the state Constitution spells out that ties for executive-branch contests are broken by a General Assembly vote.