Good Morning
Good Morning
OpinionColumnistsMichael Dobie

An election tie: Go ahead and split that seat in Virginia

Election officials in Newport News, Va., examine ballots

Election officials in Newport News, Va., examine ballots earlier this month that a computer failed to scan during a recount for a House of Delegates race. Credit: AP / Ben Finley

A fascinating scene will play out Wednesday in Virginia, where state elections officials will decide the winner of a tied House of Delegates race.

No, they won’t cast votes themselves. They’re going to assemble before what figures to be a large crowd and simply pick a winner. How? By writing the names of the two candidates on pieces of paper and placing them inside old film canisters to be put in a bowl and shaken, not stirred.

Film canisters. How delightfully anachronistic.

And completely ridiculous.

Now, in defense of Virginia, breaking ties isn’t always easy. Professional football and hockey have tortured histories with this that now include extra sessions that still can end in ties. There’s a reason the Supreme Court has an uneven nine members; all those 4-4 ties before Neil Gorsuch was seated became punts back to lower courts.

In Virginia, Republican incumbent David Yancey and Democratic challenger Shelly Simonds have already slugged it out in overtime. After Yancey won by 10 votes on election night, Simonds took the recount by a single vote, but then a three-judge panel gave one disputed ballot to Yancey. Regardless of Wednesday’s outcome, further litigation is possible. And to whom would you punt back this race?

The stalemate — each candidate has 11,608 votes — is resonant on several levels. A Simonds win would leave the House of Delegates with a 50-50 party split after a Democratic wave. And this in a state that serves as a bellwether for the nation, which also is evenly and bitterly divided. The U.S. Senate is one seat away from a 50-50 split and dysfunctional. One candidate won the popular vote for president last year and the other the electoral vote and their followers are still chasms apart. So, yes, the symbolic stakes in Wednesday’s bingo drawing are huge.

Given all that drama, here’s a suggestion: Virginia should employ a bit of Solomonic wisdom and split the baby.

That’s right. Split the seat. Half to Yancey, half to Simonds.

Virginia’s voters have weighed in. They’ve shown they’re split evenly on this race, and split evenly on control of the House of Delegates, the lower of Virginia’s two houses. So honor that spirit.

Send both Yancey and Simonds to the state capital in Richmond. Let them share an office and a staff and a salary. Divvy up their committee assignments. And when it comes to voting on legislation, split that up, too. Let them alternate. Simonds votes on one bill, Yancey the next, then Simonds, then Yancey.

Make sure the glossy mailers to residents include photos of both. Side by side. Smiling. And all those news releases and letters to constituents would have to feature what “we” did and said and how “we” are making a difference, not “I.”

Let that resonate around the nation.

Michael Dobie is a member of Newsday’s editorial board.