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No shootout, but tiebreaker rules set for Saturday election

The good news, for anyone who has tried to unravel the NHL’s tiebreaker system or (even worse) the one used in the World Cup of soccer, is that the City of Prince George has a very simple procedure if there is a tie after the votes are counted in Saturday’s municipal election.

Chief Election Officer Walter Babicz says it will be a simple matter of drawing of a name, after the judicial recount, of course.

The province’s Local Government Act sets out a default of a runoff election, but gives municipalities the option of having the seat determined by lot, which Prince George has taken.

This would only come into play if the tie in Saturday’s election was for the final spot, either for mayor, the eighth council position, or the fifth position on the school board. If there’s a tie for, say, third in the council vote, both people get in, so there’s no need to break the tie.

The question of breaking a tie came to me on the weekend when I had a little spare time on my hands and my mind started wandering. (There have been times in the past where it hasn’t come back for three or four days.)

I was somewhat surprised to find different provinces have different procedures for breaking ties for individual seats. B.C., like the federal government and six of the other provinces and territories, calls for a by-election to determine the result.

In New Brunswick and Ontario, the returning officer casts the deciding vote. In Nova Scotia, the names are placed in a box and the winner is the one drawn. The papers must be of equal size and the same colour. The Yukon Territory just draws lots, with none of the other fancy stuff.

Prince Edward Island uses the toss of a coin, but doesn’t give either candidate the chance to call it. Instead, the candidate with the surname closest to the start of the alphabet is designated ‘heads’ while the other candidate gets, surprise, ‘tails’. In what has to be the closest vote ever, one recent election saw Alan McIsaac win the seat over Mary Ellen McInnis when the coin toss came up tails.

I have not bothered looking up what happens if there is a three-way tie in P.E.I.

Saskatchewan has the simplest procedure, but it’s one that could cause other problems in a tightly contested election over the whole province. They declare the seat vacant.

One of my favourite election tie-breaking stories was from the United States, when they found out the local government didn’t have a way to break the tie. The two candidates drew cards.

This happened, of course, in Nevada.

Don’t forget to get out and vote on Saturday.


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