Local election officials across Virginia will conduct recounts of four House of Delegates races this month that will determine whether Republicans retain control of the chamber.
Currently Republicans hold 51 seats while Democrats hold 49, but several of those races were squeakers. In preliminary hearings this week, judges set dates for three of the four races heading to recount, according to spokesmen for both House Republicans and House Democrats.
The first recount will be Dec. 13 and 14 in Fairfax and Prince William counties for the 40th District, where incumbent Del. Tim Hugo (R) narrowly won reelection by a 106-vote margin over Democrat Donte Tanner.
The closest race heading to recount is the 94th District in Newport News, where Del. David E. Yancey (R) beat Shelly Simonds by 10 votes. That recount will be held Dec. 19.
The next day, Richmond-area officials will conduct a recount requested by Del. G. Manoli Loupassi (R-Richmond), who lost to Democrat Dawn Adams by 336 votes.
A preliminary hearing that would determine the date for a recount in the 28th District has not yet been held. In that race, Republican Bob Thomas leads Democrat Joshua Cole by 82 votes in the contest to fill the seat being vacated by retiring Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford). More than 100 voters in the 28th District and neighboring 88th District were given the wrong ballots, state elections officials say.
In the 88th District, Del. Mark Cole (R-Fredericksburg) — no relation to Joshua Cole — beat Democrat Steve Aycock by more than 4,000 votes. No one is questioning the outcome of that race, even with the misassigned ballots, because the margin was so wide.
Democrats and Republicans both say they expect the recount for the 28th District will be held Dec. 21.
On Nov. 7, Virginians voted with paper ballots scanned by electronic machines. Recounts consider ballots that were deemed illegible, but where the voter intent may be clear, even if they did not follow the proper instructions for marking their choice.
The state pays for recounts in races where the candidates are separated by less than half of a percentage point. The Loupassi-Adams race did not fall within that margin, and Loupassi must bear the costs.
If Adams prevails in a recount and Democrats flip two of the other Republican-held seats after a recount, Democrats will take control of the chamber for the first time since 2000. If Adams prevails and Democrats pick up one seat, the chamber will be split 50-50 with no tiebreaking mechanism and the parties must negotiate a power-sharing agreement.
Gov-elect. Ralph Northam is a Democrat, and Republicans hold a narrow 21-19 majority in the state Senate.