Voting in Virginia: Your Vote Counts
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus
When assessing the voting preferences of the people in various states, a knowledgeable political watchdog will find that Virginia is always up for grabs. During its history of reliably choosing Democrats when Virginia’s Southerners were wary of the growing power of the federal government, the Virginians habitually chose Harry Byrd Sr. and then Harry Bryd Jr. for an important seat in the U.S. Senate. The trend in Virginia during the later decades of the 20th Century was full of electing conservatives for federal and state posts.
Things began to change over more recent decades when Virginia’s northern counties became home for large numbers of federal employees. These people have customarily voted mainly to keep their jobs, and they don’t vote as Virginians formerly did. Many of the good-paying jobs they fill are with completely unconstitutional departments and agencies (Education, Energy, Transportation, Health, Foreign Aid, etc.). The bureaucrats who fill them aren’t conservatives; they are reliably left leaning liberals and their choices on election days can be expected to be liberal Democrats. These government employees have enormous influence in Virginia’s statewide races such as those for President, Governor, and U.S. Senator.
Nevertheless, distaste for even larger government has kept the state’s legislature from falling into the hands of liberals. But the growing presence of federal employees has led to a shrinking of the conservative-leaning GOP’s once solid 32-seat advantage in the 100-seat House of Delegates. Also, no one can deny the negative effect for GOP candidates of President Donald Trump.
In Virginia’s 2017 election, GOP domination advantage disappeared and the hotly contested race for the seat in the House of Delegates sought by Republican David Yancey and Democrat Shelly Simonds became the cliffhanger of cliffhangers. What was at stake was control of the lower House of Virginia’s government. If the Democrat prevailed, there would be a 50-50 split in the House, and the newly elected liberal Democrat governor would get to choose House leaders and set the House’s agenda.
The result on election day initially saw Democrat Simonds prevail by a single vote. A recount found another vote for Republican incumbent Yancey – which meant a tie and the winner could not be named. Each candidate had won exactly 11,607 votes. So Virginia did what its law called for. That law stipulated the creation of a non-vote drawing where the names of the two candidates are written on separate pieces of paper, put into a bowl, and the election winner is chosen when an official of the Virginia State Board of Elections selects one slip of paper. On January 4th, David Yancey’s name was on the slip pulled from the bowl. The Republicans had won and their margin in the House would be 51 to 49.
So, unless some other challenge is made, incumbent David Yancey will return as the elected representative of the district where a slip of paper, not a plurality of even one vote, made him the winner. A few more federal employees in the district would have resulted in a Democrat victory, not only for the single seat in Virginia’s House of Delegates, but for expanding Medicaid, approving a call for a federal Constitutional Convention, and a lot more.
Whoever says his vote doesn’t count should be made aware of what recently happened in Virginia.
Mr. McManus served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the late 1950s and joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966. He has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and President. Mr. McManus has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs and is also author of a number of educational DVDs and books. Now President Emeritus, he continues his involvement with the Society through public speaking and writing for this blog, the JBS Bulletin, and The New American.