Home / World News / How a peculiar Colorado law settled three tied elections this year – The Denver Post

How a peculiar Colorado law settled three tied elections this year – The Denver Post

With sleeves rolled up, Adams County Clerk Stan Martin turned his head to the side and reached blindly into a glass bowl to fish out the name of the person who will occupy the lone vacant seat on the Northglenn City Council.

“The winner is … congratulations to Joyce Downing,” Martin declared, reading the name from the card he had plucked from the bowl.

This seemingly archaic ceremony, held inside the Adams County commissioners’ hearing room Tuesday afternoon, is in keeping with the way tied elections for public office are settled in Colorado. This year, Northglenn had one of three candidate races statewide that resulted in a tie — even after a mandatory recount — and triggered the need to determine a winner “by lot,” as stipulated in state election law.

The other two deadlocked Nov. 7 showdowns were the Julesburg School District RE-1 board of education race, where two candidates landed in a 225-225 logjam, and the Cripple Creek City Council race, where the two hopefuls running for the Ward 5 seat garnered 63 votes apiece.

While state statutes require a chance drawing to determine a winner if a recount doesn’t clear up the matter, it doesn’t prescribe which method a community must use to break a tie — be it a coin flip, a name in a hat or even a high-card draw.

Perhaps in a nod to its reputation as a gambling hot spot, Cripple Creek last month used a deck of cards to name Melissa Trenary the victor in the city council race. Both candidates cut from a fresh deck, and then Trenary picked a 10 of diamonds while her opponent, Jeff Regester, turned up a seven of clubs.

“The county clerk and recorder showed up with a deck of cards, and we were fine with that,” said Ray DuBois, city administrator for Cripple Creek. “It was very appropriate for this town.”

Like Adams County, Julesburg went with pulling a name to declare Tammy Aulston the winner of the school board race Nov. 27.

“When I found out that this is how you break a tie, I was very surprised,” said Shawn Ehnes, superintendent of the 700-student district. “Then again, I don’t know how else you would go about it.”

Secretary of State spokeswoman Lynn Bartels noted that in addition to the ties in Cripple Creek, Northglenn and Julesburg, three local ballot issues had equal “yes” and “no” votes last month. But forget any hats, bowls or cards — according to state law, ballot questions fail if they end in a tie.

“I think it’s pretty safe to say this was an unusual year,” said Bartels, noting there were 13 contests across the state requiring a recount this year.

While her office hasn’t tracked the number of tied races over the last few election cycles, Bartels said 2017 was notable for an off-year election — if Adams County’s results are any indication.

“Long-timers in Adams County elections can’t remember the last time they had a recount, and this year they were involved in five,” she said.

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