High-flying political campaigns can burn through millions of dollars for polls, strategists and advertising. But North Carolina law also allows candidates a free bit of luck.
That happened Monday in Iredell County. Sally Williams won a deadlocked election for Troutman Town Council when an elections board member picked a slip of paper with her name on it from a bowl.
Both Williams and her challenger, Curt Rogers, had won 121 votes on Nov. 7. When a vote ends in a tie, county election boards “shall determine the winner by lot,” according to state law.
Breaking a tie is normally done after an official canvass of votes, which will occur Friday. But the processes for Iredell’s canvass were practically complete before the drawing and the public was notified of it in advance, the state Board of Elections said.
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Some boards flip a coin to break ties. Iredell prefers a drawing, elections director Becky Galliher told the Statesville Record & Landmark, because it has “always done that. It’s tradition.”
Ties are most likely in small towns with fewer voters. The Iredell County towns of Love Valley and Harmony have also settled tie elections with drawings, Galliher said, and another Troutman council seat was settled that way a few years ago.
The voting rights advocacy group Democracy North Carolina, in a recent study covered by Raleigh’s News & Observer, showed how much a single vote matters in turning elections. In the November 2015 elections alone, the study found, one vote separated winners from losers in 31 municipalities.
Coin tosses settled election ties in five small towns that year, the N&O reported. Drawings like Troutman’s broke ties in Dover, near the coast, and Garland, a town between Fayetteville and Wilmington.