Friday, May 05, 2006

Local Ties

I was interested to find, reported in Barbara Goodwin's Justice by Lottery, that settling tied elections randomly is not only an obviously fair solution, but the one actually used in this country. It's even more interesting to find that one local council seat last night was decided by the drawing of straws - or, rather, pencils:

A former mayor of St Albans lost his council seat after an election tie was settled by getting the candidates to pick the longest pencil.

St Albans Tory councillor Keith Stammers lost out to Lib Dem Judith Shardlow after their votes were tied at 1131 each after three recounts.

UPDATE: Discussing this in college, Ellie seemed (mildly) shocked at what happened. 'I thought there'd be some procedure for ties' she said. Well, there is - random selection. Seems fair to me. The question is, if 1,131 votes each calls for a 50/50 chance each, why is it 1,132 votes for one of them would have decided the election definitely?

Also, I'm wondering what reasons there are to prefer drawing straws to tossing a coin. At first, I thought it might be that because it involves a choice on behalf of the candidates it seems less arbitrary. Tossing a coin still involves one calling heads or tails, of course, but that isn't something that's right or wrong.


  1. Anonymous2:23 pm

    You seem to have unleashed italics to run riot over you blog.

  2. Doesn't a coin get tossed to decide a Parliamentary election in The Master Storyteller's evergreen classic, First Among Equals?

    (Once upon a time, I thought that this was the worst novel I had ever read, but The Da Vinci Code is much, much worse.)

  3. I have to actually agree with the American system (at least with the federal level) of having the legislative body vote in the event of a tie.

    Of course, the definition of a Presidential tie in America is too broad, but that is a different argument for a different time.