Virginia residents wait in line in the pre-dawn hours to vote in the Virginia primary at a historic property called the Hunter House at Nottoway Park in Vienna, Va., on March 1, 2016.
Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

A dramatic case study in literally one vote making a difference


Going into this year’s elections in Virginia, most believed Democrats would fare well, but the idea of Republicans losing their majority in the House of Delegates seemed completely unrealistic. The GOP majority was simply too large, and the district lines were drawn in such a way as to effectively be voter-proof.

The Rachel Maddow Show, 12/19/17, 9:46 PM ET

Virginia Democrats achieve a tie in legislature despite landslide

Rachel Maddow points out that with the one-vote victory margin in a recount today, Virginia Democrats have achieved a tie in the House of Delegates even though they won by a significant margin -a consequence of the Republican gerrymandering advantage.
What no one saw coming was the Democratic tidal wave in the commonwealth. Going into Election Day, Republicans had 66 seats to the Dems’ 34. As of yesterday, it will be 50-50 – thanks to one race decided by one vote. The Washington Post  reported:

The balance of power in Virginia’s legislature turned on a single vote in a recount Tuesday that flipped a seat in the House of Delegates from Republican to Democratic, leaving control of the lower chamber evenly split.

The outcome, which reverberated across Virginia, ends 17 years of GOP control of the House and forces Republicans into a rare episode of power sharing with Democrats that will refashion the political landscape in Richmond.

Note, the description of the race having “turned on a single vote” is quite literal. In the race for the seat for the 94th House District, Shelly Simonds (D) ended up with 11,608 votes. Her opponent, incumbent David Yancey (R), finished with 11,607 votes.

The next time you hear someone say one vote can’t make a difference, keep this result in mind.

As Rachel explained on the show last night, the broader context is, in a way, ridiculous. In terms of the popular vote, Virginia Democrats crushed their Republican opponents this year by 10 points. But thanks to GOP gerrymandering, that was just barely enough to eke out a tie in the state House.

Still, Democrats are thrilled to have pulled off a feat few thought possible in Virginia – thanks in large part to a race decided by just one voter.

Update: A few hours after I published this, one of the GOP candidate’s ballots was restored, which means it’s now a literal tie.


A dramatic case study in literally one vote making a difference