13:17 GMT +323 January 2018
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    One Single Ballot in Virginia; Plus: Are Dems Over-Relying on Impeachment?

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    Brad Friedman
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    An all too remarkable reminder that every vote - every single vote - matters. Or should, with control of the Virginia's House of Delegates and, potentially, healthcare for hundreds of thousands now at stake amid a remarkable "recount" in the state.

    Also, now that the massive GOP tax bill has been passed, are Democrats still relying too much on potential findings of the Special Counsel and the possibility of impeachment in 2018? Just after our show yesterday, the Commonwealth of Virginia completed a partial-machine, partial-hand "recount" of one of last month's House of Delegates races that, by one single vote, appeared last night to hand the victory to the Democratic candidate Shelly Simonds. One single vote. If Democrats pick up that seat, it would, in turn, end decades of Republican-majority control of the House, with a 50/50 seat split among Ds and Rs. Before the November 7 election, Republicans held a 66-34 seat advantage.

    It appeared, as of last night, to be a done deal, with the Dem having been declared the winner after the "recount" by one vote on the state's hand-marked paper ballots and the Republicans having conceded the race. (Virginia finally got rid of all of its 100% unverifiable touch-screen systems this after.) The bi-partisan election official judges signed off on Tuesday's new tally, handing the victory to Simonds over Republican David Yancey who had led by just 10 votes prior to the "recount".

    But on Wednesday morning, a GOP election official judge had second thoughts about one ballot which, previously, the judges had unanimously determined to be an overvote — with a selection in the bubbles for both the Democrat Simonds and for the incumbent Republican Yancey. The Simonds bubble, however, appears to have a slash through it. The rest of the selections on the ballot were for Republicans, though the choice for the Republican candidate for Governor also appears to have a cross through it, with no other candidate selected by the voter in that race. (The full ballot in question can be viewed here [JPG].)

    So, after a two hour court hearing on Wednesday, it was decided by a three-judge panel that the race was/is a tie instead, with 11,608 votes for each candidate. That means control of the VA House — and the increased possibility of health care coverage via Medicaid expansion for nearly half a million Virginians — will be left up to a random draw to see who wins the seat.

    There are, of course, still many questions about this story, which was still breaking as we went to air today. The "losing" candidate after the random draw will also be able to ask for a second "recount". We discuss all of those questions, the ballot, the "recount" methods used in the state, the state's published guidelines (PDF) for counting various types of questionably hand-marked paper ballots in VA, and much more related to this remarkable episode, including whether digitally scanned "Ballot Images" from Election Night may exist to determine whether the cross-out on the ballot in question was there originally or added somehow during the post-Election Night chain of custody. (The city of Newport News, where this election in the 94th District was held, does appear to have the type of computer-scanners that create digital ballot images, though I've yet to hear back from the Registrar if those systems were set to retain the images after scanning them.)

    It should also be noted here that Democrats received some 53% of the vote, compared to just 43% for Republicans across the state when the entire House was up for grabs in November. Nonetheless, as things currently stand, Democrats may only achieve a 50/50 split in the House. That should offer an idea of how badly the Republicans have gerrymandered the state.

    Also, a separate recount for a separate very close VA House of Delegates race is still pending, though Democrats there are suing for a completely new election, since at least 100 voters were given the wrong ballot in a race currently decided for the Republican incumbent — before the "recount" — by just 82 votes.

    Then, we're joined today by JEET HEER, Senior Editor at New Republic to discuss the final passage of the GOP's massive tax cuts, largely for the wealthy, how Democrats are responding to them, and whether or not they are over-relying on the possibility of impeachment to take down President Trump as they head into the 2018 mid-term election year. Heer argued as much in a recent article discussing "the Democrats' dangerous obsession with impeachment". It's a highly debatable subject, about which I am of at least two minds, as discussed in detail with Heer on today's show.

    Finally, we close with Bernie Sanders' late-night response to the passage of the $1.5 trillion tax bill in the middle of the night on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning in the US Senate, and how the GOP is now planning to come for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security in order to pay for it.

    You can find Brad's previous editions here. And tune in to radio Sputnik five days a week.

    We'd love to get your feedback at radio@sputniknews.com

    Tags:
    tax cuts, election irregularities, impeachment, accountability, healthcare, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Republicans, Democrats, US House of Representatives, US Senate, Doug Jones, Roy Moore, Robert Mueller, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Virginia, United States, Alabama
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