Two absentee ballots arrive for tied race

T-L Photo/SHELLEY HANSON IF NESCESSARY, elections officials could break the tie vote by drawing a name from a hat, drawing straws, flipping a coin or cutting a deck of cards.

MARTINS FERRY — Last Tuesday’s primary election in Ohio was the first time Belmont County Board of Elections Director Kelly McCabe had ever experienced a tied race between two candidates for an office.

There was just one race in the county that day — for a Martins Ferry 4th Ward City Council seat. Incumbent Rick Rodgers and challenger Larry Deaton of Martins Ferry each received 24 votes.

Since this was new to McCabe, she quickly reviewed what steps the board of elections would be taking next. If an absentee ballot, postmarked before May 7, is received by the board within seven days of Election Day it will be added to the vote total during the official certification of votes. But that is not scheduled to happen until 4 pm. May 23.

At the certification, if the vote still is tied, the board members will have to break the tie. And this is where things get interesting.

According to the Ohio Election Manual, there are few different ways a tie can be broken — and in this day and age of high-tech phones and computers, some might think of these methods as old-fashioned. The recommended methods include, but are not limited to, flipping a coin, drawing straws, picking a name out of a hat or cutting a deck of cards.

After the tie is broken, an automatic recount will be held. McCabe previously said since the race involved just one precinct, the recount will be done by hand.

However, she said Thursday that two absentee ballots had arrived by mail to the elections office. They cannot be opened until the certification day.

“Those will be addressed at the official certification. … We separate them and put them into the scanner. We don’t know whose ballot came in what envelope,” McCabe said of the procedure on certification day.

As far as the voter turnout is concerned, she said there can be a variety of reasons why turnout can be low for any particular race.

“It was an off-year election, an odd year. There was only one race on the ballot. … It’s up to the individual voter whether to vote in an election or not,” she said.

“Anybody can ask for a Democrat ballot. … This time we only had one party ballot,” she said. “In Ohio, when you ask for a party ballot then you are affiliated with that party.”

McCabe said at the time of the election in Precinct 13, there were 838 registered voters not affiliated with any political party; 173 registered voters who are affiliated with the Demoract party; and 100 registered voters affiliated with the Republican party. That amounts to a total of 1,111 registered voiters. Of that total, only 48 people cast ballots at the polling location; if the two mailed absentee ballots are approved, the total turnout will amount to 50 voters, or 4.5 percent of all the people who were eligible to vote in the precinct.