Four Democratic voters in Virginia are appealing a court decision that cleared the way for Republicans to take control of the state House of Delegates. At issue is whether errors that led some voters in an extremely close Northern Virginia House race to be given the wrong ballots were so significant that Republican Robert Thomas, the victor, should not be seated when the General Assembly convenes on Wednesday. Late Friday, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III of the Eastern District of Virginia decided they were not. The four voters have appealed Ellis’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit and filed an emergency motion there to stop Thomas from being seated.
“The margin of victory was so small,” plaintiff Kenneth Lecky told reporters on a conference call Monday. He and his wife were unable to vote for the Democratic candidate because they were given the wrong ballots. “So it’s hard to understand how a judge could rule that this was not consequential.”
Thomas defeated Democrat Joshua Cole by 73 votes in Virginia’s House District 28 race. But at least 86 voters, including some in a heavily Democratic precinct, were mistakenly issued ballots to vote in the neighboring House District 88, where the Republican won by a wide margin. And 61 voters in the 88th District, which tilts Republican, were mistakenly given ballots to vote in the 28th.
Ellis sided with attorneys for local election officials and the Republican Party of Virginia, who argued that the mistakes were scattershot rather than systemic and affected too small a percentage of voters to warrant a new election.