Simonds goes to court over contested Newport News house seat

Nellie Chapman
December 27, 2017

On Wednesday, a member of the State Board of Elections is scheduled to pick a film canister carrying a piece of paper with the name of the victor out of a bowl.

The motions that Simonds' attorneys will file argue that Newport News Chief Judge Bryant L. Sugg, Powhatan Circuit Court Chief Judge Paul W. Cella and Chesterfield Circuit Court Judge David E. Johnson didn't properly follow recount rules when they awarded a ballot after the recount to her opponent, three-term incumbent Del.

Attorneys for Shelly Simonds have asked the circuit court in Newport News to reconsider its decision declaring a contested house race a tie.

The balance of the Virginia House of Delegates is slated to be decided by a random drawing on December 27, but democrats are filing motions to try and stop that from happening.

"The statute does not require the board to conduct the drawing by any set deadline and no parties will be prejudiced by a brief delay, provided that the process is completed before the legislative session begins on January 10, 2018", Simonds' lawyers wrote to the State Board of Elections.

If the court agrees with Simonds, the draw could be postponed.

Any change after that precinct count was completed violates a rule banning multiple counts of the same precinct, Simonds argued.

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That decision turned the race, which a recount panel had declared a one-vote victory for Simonds, into a tie.

On it, bubbles for both Yancey and Simonds were filled in, and there was a slash through the bubble for Simonds.

"Were it not strictly applied, this Court - and any future recount courts - will be forced to reckon with all manner of requests for a third counting of ballots occasioned by pressure brought to bear on recount officials from any manner of sources", the lawyers wrote.

Simonds said this legal challenge was necessary to protect the integrity of Virginia's electoral system.

Simonds's lawyers urged the court to seek guidance on the ballot from the State Board of Elections before making another final decision. Because Tuesday is a holiday, it will have to wait until Wednesday for a response. The first name drawn from the bowl will be declared the victor.

On Wednesday, the state Board of Elections is slated to determine a victor of the race between Shelly Simonds (D-Newport News) and Del. If Democrats win, there will be a 50-50 split in the House, meaning a power-sharing agreement will be necessary.

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