Which party will control the Virginia House of Delegates is still up in the air after last week’s elections as three races are headed for a recount, but some Democrats in the state say a handful of ballots that officials refuse to open or count could be crucial in determining who controls the chamber.
According to a report in The Hill, 55 ballots remain unopened and uncounted because the postal service delivered them to the board of elections 15 hours too late – and county officials refuse to unseal or tally them.
The Democrats only need to win more seat to control the House of Delegates.
More from the report:
The outcomes in three districts are up for a recount, including House District 28, which includes part of Stafford County. The county is in the northeast of the state and part of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.
In the district, Joshua Cole (D) trails Republican Rob Thomas by fewer than 90 votes, a deficit that could be overcome if the recount — and uncounted ballots — favor Cole.
But those 55 uncounted ballots are now at the center of a legal fight.
Greg Riddlemoser, the Stafford County registrar, told Virginia Department of Elections Commissioner Edgardo Cortés in an email that he received the ballots at 10 a.m. the day after Election Day.
For that reason, the Stafford County Electoral Board voted Tuesday against counting the ballots, citing the law.
The Democratic candidate in the key race has filed a lawsuit, hoping to force election officials in the state to open and count the untallied ballots.
According to WTOP, the lawsuit argues that “due process rights require the votes be counted even though they missed the deadline because … the delay was purely caused by some government entity like the Postal Service or a county staffer.”
Even without any uncounted votes, the 82-vote margin between Democrat Cole and Republican Thomas is incredibly close. A recount could certainly flip the race in the Democratic candidate’s favor, but that becomes even more likely if you include the dozens of votes that were received half a day late due to a discrepancy with the postal service.
It will be hard to overcome the law, which leaders in Virginia say prohibits them from unsealing the ballots, but 55 voters should not have their right to vote stripped of them – especially in such close, key races – just because the mail came late.