My latest op-ed, title above, appeared in The Virginian-Pilot Thursday. With the AG race decided, now is the time for the legislature to make a change to the sections of the code that would throw the decision in a disputed election to the General Assembly.
As is typically the case, I had to do some research into the last time the provisions of the Virginia Code were used, as mentioned in this article. I found it fascinating that the contest was here in Hampton Roads and featured incumbent Democrat Peter K. Babalas and Republican Meyera Oberndorf. (Babalas, you might recall, was later involved in a scandal that lead to changes in our financial disclosure laws. Oberndorf was on Virginia Beach City Council at the time.) Among the many articles I read of the contest, this one puts the elections on 1979 in context. The Democratic majorities in the legislature were even larger than the Republican ones are now: 75 of 100 House of Delegates seats were held by Democrats, along with 31 of 40 Senate seats. It should surprise no one that the legislature chose to declare Babalas the winner.
The circumstances of 1979 were far different, though. In that case, voting machine malfunction in Norfolk put the results of the election in doubt. We had none of that this year and when combined with the Republican majority on every electoral board in the state, attempts to make a case for an election contest, as SBE chair Charles Judd did, rang hollow. Besides, things have become more partisan since 1979.
But the Virginia Way is to not engage in that kind of behavior and is, I think, the reason why there has not been an election contest in the intervening years. Mark Obenshain demonstrated his respect for the electoral process when he chose not to contest the election. I know I wasn’t alone in breathing a sigh of relief.
The next time, though, the candidate may not be so magnanimous. So now’s the time to fix it. Take the decision out of the hands of the legislature.
My column appears in The Virginian-Pilot every week, usually on Thursdays. You can see the columns as they are published here, or navigate to them from the PilotOnline.com homepage by clicking on Opinion and then choosing my name at the bottom of the dropdown list. You can also see the columns by liking my Facebook page. Although my column appears weekly, I am not and have never been an employee of The Virginian-Pilot.Follow @vpaige