YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – It turns out that boards of elections in Ohio have some leeway when it comes to deciding a tiebreaker in elections, and proves that every single vote counts.
Recently, a tie in a Youngstown City Council race for the sixth ward seat was decided with a coin toss. Janet Tarpley lost to Anita Davis. Tarpley has criticized the process.
Under Ohio law, the method to determine a tiebreaker is up to the local board of elections. You can do a coin toss or other method the board chooses, such as drawing straws, picking a name out of a hat, cutting cards, or — yes — horseshoes.
In the horseshoe tiebreaker, according to the Ohio Secretary of State Office, there is a bag with two horseshoes in it. One is black and the other is white. Each candidate is assigned a color and an election official pulls out the winning color.
The guidelines come from the Election Official Manual, not Ohio’s revised code.
The Secretary of State keeps track of those tie votes. Youngstown’s council race isn’t in the record yet, but the results from May 2022 show several tiebreakers and the ways they were ultimately decided.
In Delaware County, drawing a horseshoe from a bag decided who would be a member of the County Central Committee. And did you know that in Mahoning County in 2022, the decision on who would be a member of the Republican Central Committee involved a coin toss? All other elections decided in Ohio by coin toss in May 2022 were for Central Committee members. In 2021, the tied race for a Jackson Village council seat in Shelby County was decided by drawing names.
While tied candidate races are ultimately decided by a coin flip, issue races resulting in a tie are defeated, as Ohio law requires a majority of affirmative votes for passage.
The coin toss dates back to the Roman Empire, according to the U.S. Mint. Most states allow for a coin toss to decide a tied vote. It happens in other countries, too. That’s how a mayor was decided in a small Peruvian town in the Andes in 2014 and a mayor in Manila, Philippines in 2019.