By Les Gabriel
Virginia Political Activist
More than seven weeks after the November election and four recounts, it still is not clear who is in and who is out, and who will be in control of the House next session. The tie vote in the 94th District represents the 2nd largest tie vote in U.S. history. According to State law, it is scheduled to be decided by chance on Dec 27th. Although any might have differing opinions about whether this is the best way to resolve ties, it is too late to do anything to change the law at this point. Whatever the outcome of the name drawing, the loser is entitled to another recount. So the 94th Delegate may not be certified until after the sessions begins, leaving the chamber for at least part of the session with a 50-49 Republican margin (depending on the outcome in the 28th District, also not certified at this point.)
In the 28th District, Republican Bob Thomas after a recount now holds a 75 vote margin (down from 82 prior to the recount). However, a Federal Court has left open the possibility of a new election because of up to 147 voters being assigned to the wrong district. If the Court decides on a new election, clearly it would take place after the beginning of the session.
The various possibilities at the outset of or during the House session include 49-49 or 50-50 ties or 50-49 or 51-49 Republican advantages.
Let us look at how these situations, the ones in the 94th and 28th Districts and the possibility of an equally divided House might be better addressed.
In the 94th, can anyone else see that there could be a better tie-breaking solution, one that more closely reflects the will of the voters and does not violate the winner-take-all tradition of U.S. elections? Could we not change the drawing of names solution to ties to one where each tied candidate gets to serve half the term? There would still need to be a method of determining who would get the first half and who would get the second, but that could be decided by a coin toss, and the winner getting his or her choice.
In the 28th, a Judge is considering the possibility of a new election. But does it not make more sense to limit that election to those individuals who were wrongly assigned to the wrong district. More than 99% of voters already cast their votes for their chosen candidate on the correct day. It is unreasonable to ask them to vote again. Some may have died, some may have been moved, some may have become ineligible to vote since election day. How do we handle newly registered voters? Can they now vote in a “redo” election? Can those who chose not to vote on election day now vote in a “redo”? Some of these questions apply to those 147 misassigned voters, but it is certainly brings up fewer problems than a District-wide new election. The votes of the 147 voters would simply be added to the already recounted totals to get the winner. I realize it would be a lot harder for someone to make up 75 votes with only 147 voters eligible to cast ballots, but it is hard to argue that it would be in any way unfair.
Finally, let us look at the possibilities of power-sharing in the House in case of a 49-49 or 50-50 tie. There apparently are no rules and little precedent in how to do this. In my opinion, it is better to do so before it is known what the ultimate outcome will be. During the period of a tie (and this could change during the session), all Committees and Sub-Committees should be reconfigured to have an even number and each Party would have an equal number of members. Each Party could assign members as they see fit. The Speakership would rotate on a weekly basis, and his or her duties would be limited to overseeing debates and votes.