- - Tuesday, December 26, 2017


You don’t take a knife to a gunfight, and like it or not, politics has become something of a gunfight and this gunfight, the closest since the famous gunfight at the OK Corral, is on vivid display in the contest for the seat of the 94th District in the Virginia House of Delegates, where the winner of a tie is to be finally determined by drawing lots, as prescribed by Virginia election law.

The stakes are greater than just one seat. The outcome will determine whether the House of Delegates remains controlled by Republicans or whether the Democrats can force a power-sharing arrangement by winning a 50th seat in the 100-seat chamber.

Shelly Simonds, the Democrat, was initially all smiles when a painstaking recount turned her loss by 10 votes into a win by a single vote, 11,608 votes to 11,607. Her smile evaporated when the panel of three judges charged with certifying the results discovered that one disputed ballot should be counted for her opponent, the incumbent David E. Yancey.

Ms. Simonds said at once that she might appeal the panel’s ruling to the state Supreme Court — unless, of course, her name is drawn from the hat. “I think the [panel] made a really bad call,” Ms. Simonds told The Washington Post. “We were following the rules, and David Yancey chose not to follow the rules. That was really sneaky.”

The Republicans, when learning that their 10-vote triumph, had been reversed, were mature and gracious. “We congratulate Delegate-elect Simonds and welcome her to this historic body,” House Majority Leader M. Kirkland Cox said. Then came the discovery of the overlooked ballot that produced the tie.

If even one vote was cast fraudulently by an illegal alien or a nonresident of the district, or if the name of a dead person hadn’t been stricken from the voter rolls, or some other anomaly not been discovered, not only would the true winning candidate have been cheated out of his or her rightful seat, but all voters who cast votes for the winner would have been disenfranchised.

Democrats insist that vote fraud is a figment of fevered Republican imagination, that it never occurs, or if it does it is so rare that it’s inconsequential. Just three days before the recount began The Washington Post, in an editorial, railed against what it calls “the GOP’s fairy tale.”

“An utter lack of evidence doesn’t deter Republicans from peddling untruths about voter fraud,” the newspaper insisted. “There is no evidence whatsoever that voter fraud is prevalent in the United States.” The newspaper, whose slogan proclaims that “democracy dies in darkness,” is apparently unaware of a voter-fraud database, compiled by the Heritage Foundation, that confirms 1,108 confirmed instances of voter fraud. The database, searchable by state, documents 949 criminal convictions and 48 imposed civil penalties. How can anyone, particularly a defender of democracy, credibly insist there was not even a single vote cast fraudulently in the 94th District race?

The National Commission on Federal Election Reform, empaneled after the 2000 presidential election that was effectively determined by a few hundred votes out of millions cast in Florida, said in its report to Congress that the problem “is not the magnitude of voter fraud. In close or disputed elections, and there are many, a small amount of fraud could make the margin of difference.” That’s a painful wound to democracy, in or out of darkness, and the cure for darkness is light.

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