It was the electoral nightmare Virginia never wanted to experience: being host to a high-profile mess like the 2000 presidential election recount in Florida, with officials obsessing over questionable ballots as political power hangs in the balance. So 17 years ago, the state began writing a guidebook on how to handle such situations. The latest edition includes pictographs of ballots marked in unconventional ways — names crossed out, several boxes checked, “My guy” scrawled over a candidate’s name. Despite the best intentions to avoid a Florida-style snafu, that is where Virginia now finds itself, with lawyers fighting over how to interpret one questionable ballot. And at stake is possible control of the Legislature.
“This is right up there with Bush v. Gore in my opinion in terms of the unbelievable sequence of events that have led us to where we are,” said Rebecca Green, co-director of the Election Law Program at William & Mary School of Law in Williamsburg.
Professor Green called the Virginia predicament “the son of hanging chad,” a reference to Florida’s failed punch-card ballots from 2000. The Supreme Court stopped the recounting of contested ballots, declaring George W. Bush the next White House occupant.
On Tuesday, a court filing halted a previously scheduled name-drawing from a silver pitcher to break a tie between David Yancy, a Republican, and Shelly Simonds, a Democrat, in House District 94.