Home 2017 Races Virginia House Democratic Leader David Toscano: The Majority Is Still In Play

Virginia House Democratic Leader David Toscano: The Majority Is Still In Play

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by Virginia House Democratic Leader Del. David Toscano

The results in Virginia’s elections for our 100 House of Delegates seats last Tuesday were nothing short of a massive tsunami that people will write and talk about for years. (There’s more about that in my post Anatomy of a Wave Election.) Few believed that the Democrats could recruit so many great candidates, spread the field so effectively, and marshal resources necessary to help carry 15 candidates over the finish line. Republicans quickly attempted to portray the election as if nothing had changed, issuing press releases that they still control the majority – not so fast! There are at least two districts where the results are still in doubt, and on these two seats rests the actual majority in the House of Delegates.

94TH DISTRICT — NEWPORT NEWS

In the 94th House District (Newport News), Shelly Simonds got into the race late and mounted a furious campaign to unseat incumbent David Yancey. She is now down just 10 votes and headed into a recount. Democrats are optimistic that she can pick up the required votes to win the election and be seated in January. If so, fifty Democratic delegates would be sworn in, changing the already-altered dynamic to one that clearly favors the Democrats. That recount will likely take place in late November or early December.

28TH DISTRICT — FREDERICKSBURG/STAFFORD COUNTY

A much more complicated situation exists in the 28th House District (Fredericksburg/Stafford County). In that district, the registrar and two Electoral Board members decided not to count 55 absentee ballots, including some from military service people stationed overseas, which apparently arrived in the registrar’s post office box before 7:00 pm on Tuesday, November 7, but were not picked up until the next day. The registrar claimed that they had not been received timely and therefore could not be counted. A lawsuit has been filed to require the counting of these ballots. To think that the registrar would interpret the law so as to disenfranchise voters, possibly including some who serve our country, is shocking in this day and age.

Perhaps more significant, however, is a separate issue: we are exploring the possibility that as many as 660 voters were disenfranchised by being given the wrong ballots to vote. Fredericksburg has several “split precincts,” where the lines between two delegate districts run through a voting precinct. This requires the registrar and voting officials to provide different ballots to different people who live in separate House districts but are voting in the same precinct, a challenge that would not exist but for Republicans’ effective use of gerrymandering to carve up districts to their advantage. In Fredericksburg, polling officials may have given ballots to hundreds of people who live in the 28th District that instead listed the candidates for Delegate in the 88th District, thereby preventing them from casting a vote for their candidate of choice to represent the 28th. If hundreds of voters were disenfranchised, it would raise serious issues about the validity of the election in the 28th District, where Democratic candidate Joshua Cole is only 82 votes behind his Republican opponent. Voters in that district may choose to file a lawsuit claiming that they had a right to cast votes in their correct district and to have their votes counted; if so, the remedies for such an egregious error might include an entirely new election.

40TH DISTRICT — FAIRFAX & PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTIES

There may be one additional recount in the 40th District (Fairfax & Prince William Counties), where Democratic candidate Dante Tanner trails the Republican incumbent by 106 votes, or less than 0.4%. The candidate has not yet made a decision about whether to request a recount.

Keep Watching

The Republicans keep claiming that they have held the majority, but that is not yet clear. There is a long way to go, and which party will ultimately have the majority is still an open question.

  • From the VA House Dems:

    NEW: 668 Voters Possibly Given Wrong Ballot in HD-28
    Only 84 votes currently separate HD-28 race

    RICHMOND, Va. – Virginia House Democrats this morning held a press call with House Democratic Leader David J. Toscano and attorney Marc Elias of Perkins Coie to discuss an issue with precincts split between the 28th and 88th Districts, which may have resulted in 668 miscast votes.

    Although Virginia Code outlines precinct 401 as the only split precinct between the two districts, unofficial election results show that the City of Fredericksburg split three precincts – 201, 401 and 402.

    The 668 votes cast in precincts 201 and 402 that should have been cast in House District 28 were instead cast in House District 88. There are currently 84 votes separating Joshua Cole and his Republican opponent.

    “Every person should have the opportunity to vote for the legislator who will represent him or her,” said Elias. “We believe people – both Democrats and Republicans – were denied that right in House District 28. We are committed to doing whatever it takes to make sure that every vote is counted and every voice is heard.”

    Perkins Coie has submitted a letter to the State Board of Elections expressing concern and seeking more information surrounding the potential 668 miscast ballots. The Virginia House Democratic Caucus and Joshua Cole campaign will assess further action pending a response from the State Board.

    Separate from the issue with split precincts, a federal lawsuit was also filed yesterday in Alexandria on behalf of the Joshua Cole Campaign. The suit demands that the approximately 55 absentee ballots erroneously excluded from this year’s election be counted in accordance with the U.S. Constitution and other applicable law.

    “Do not let Republicans try to fool you – a Democratic majority in the House of Delegates is still very much in play,” said Toscano. “Yes, Tuesday was a referendum on Richmond Republicans, but that referendum isn’t finished just yet. We will continue to stand tall in the fight for a better Virginia.”

    House Democrats won at least 15 seats last week in a wave election, bringing our current numbers to 49. In addition to HD-28, HD-40 and HD-94 also remain in recount territory. The majority is in play.