Virginia Democrats on Wednesday filed for recounts in two House of Delegates races where Republicans won by razor-thin margins, as control of the chamber hangs in the balance.
Democrat Shelly Simonds, who lost to Del. David Yancey (R-Newport News) by 10 votes, filed for a recount in the 94th District. And Democrat Donte Tanner, who lost to Del. Tim Hugo (R-Fairfax County) by 106 votes, is seeking a recount in the 40th District that also includes parts of Prince William county.
Virginia House Democrats have more time to decide whether to seek a recount in a third contest, the Frederickburg-area 28th District, where state officials said scores of voters received the wrong ballots and Republican Bob Thomas defeated Democrat Joshua Cole by 82 votes. That race is the subject of a pending lawsuit filed in federal court.
Democrats would take control for the first time since 2000 if they prevail in two of the three contested races. If they change the outcome in one race, the two parties must negotiate a power-sharing agreement.
The losing Democrats in all three disputed races have been attending orientation sessions for new lawmakers in the event they eventually win.
"In races with slim margins such as these, recounts ensure that every vote is counted and every voice is heard," said House Democratic Leader David J. Toscano and Caucus Chair Charniele Herring in a statement. "Ensuring that there were no mistakes in counting these ballots maintains the integrity of the democratic process."
A spokesman for Del. M. Kirkland Cox (R-Colonial Heights), who is set to be speaker if Republicans stay in the majority, said the requests for recounts were expected.
"As we've said consistently, we are committed to open, fair, and honest elections in which all votes lawfully cast by eligible voters are counted," said Parker Slaybaugh.
After candidates petition for a recount, a judge has seven days to hold a preliminary hearing. Recounts are overseen by a panel including the chief judge of the local circuit court and two judges appointed by the chief justice of the Virginia Supreme Court.
Under Virginia state law, taxpayers pay for the cost of recounts for races where the winning margin is smaller than half of a percentage point. Campaigns still bear the costs of legal fees.