More Ways to Break Tied Elections (Voting #6)

Most commonly, the law requires that we break tied elections by lot. That is, by some random mechanism. The most obvious options are the coin toss and the straw draw. But sometimes, more amusing methods are used. For example, in Mill City, Oregon, they rolled a die and the five beat the two. In Vegas, they did a high-card draw and the diamond king beat the diamond five. In Arizona, they played poker and the pair of sevens won. In Wyoming, they drew a ping-pong ball out of a cowboy hat on live TV. In Cook county, Minnesota, they were going to draw Scrabble tiles, but realized you could feel out Scrabble tiles. And so they drew colored dice instead. Resolving ties by lot is simple, cheap, and perfectly fair. But many are triggered by the idea that mere chance should decide something as sacred as an election. For such folks, we have several alternative tie-breaking procedures. One alternative is to require a revote. This is the law in several Canadian provinces and American states. Indeed, this actually happened twice in two sizeable Québec elections. In each case, the revote the following month was again extremely close, but at least had a clear-cut winner. Another alternative is to give someone the tie-breaking vote. In Ontario and New Brunswick, the Returning Officer gets this tie-breaking vote. This practice was probably inherited from the UK, where in the 19th century, at least two ties were broken by the Returning Officer. Today though, the UK resolves ties by lot. In Montana, the Governor gets the tie-breaking vote, at least for certain judicial and legislative elections. And in the US Senate, the tie-breaking vote is given to the Vice President, who otherwise has no vote. Ties in the US Senate are pretty common. Since 1789, the Veep has broken 258 ties. In Rhode Island and Tennessee, tied gubernatorial elections are broken not by a single individual, but by the General Assembly. Next up. Breaking ties by age. In France, certain tied elections are broken in favor of the oldest. This strange rule was applied at least thrice in the 2014 French municipal elections. How did this strange rule come about? During the French Revolution, a certain Count of Mirabeau suggested that tied elections be broken first by marital status, next by number of children, then by age. For some reason, only his third suggestion would be implemented. Our last tie-breaking procedure is also the dumbest. Previously, tied elections in Hawaii were broken by lot. But in 1990, hare-brained legislators decided to invent a meaningless and extremely complicated tie-breaking formula. This formula is so complicated and hare-brained that it actually contains a silly loophole. If two candidates have 20,000 votes each while a third candidate has only 10,000, it is perfectly possible that the third candidate is declared the winner! So far, Hawaii has been spared this nightmare scenario. And in 2017, legislators tried scrapping this hare-brained formula, but unfortunately did not succeed. Econ Cow! Econ Cow is a new channel for educational videos, mostly on economics. I’m still trying to improve, so please feel free to leave me any feedback in the comments below. And of course, like, subscribe, and watch another video!

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  1. Your feedback welcome!
    This is Part #6 in a series on Voting. #1:, #2:, #3:, #4:, #5:, #7 is coming soon.

  2. This is so well done! Why is this channel so small?! Btw, I do prefer your economics videos over your voting ones as a lot of Youtubers have already covered this.

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