When San Joaquin County Registrar of Voters Melinda Dubroff was finalizing results from the Nov. 6 general election earlier this month, she was surprised to learn that two candidates tied for a seat on the Oak View Union Elementary School District Board of Trustees.
As of Dec. 6, incumbent Mark Huft was re-elected with 559 votes and newcomer Cody Brum was elected with 525 votes, while incumbents Norman Pearson and Dustin McDonald — the current board president — tied for the third seat with 497 votes each.
“I have certified the results saying that it is a tie,” Dubroff said last Tuesday.
The district can either hold a runoff election to break the tie — which Dubroff said would most likely be expensive and time-consuming — or McDonald and Pearson can draw numbers out of a hat.
“They asked to borrow these numbered wooden coins we have that are uniform to the touch,” Dubroff said.
Although he was frustrated by the tie, McDonald said last Friday he will be satisfied with the results — no matter what they are — when he and Pearson draw lots at Thursday night’s meeting.
“Both Norm and I are after what’s best for the school, so either outcome will be fine for the school,” he said.
McDonald has served on the board for the past four years, he said, overseeing Oak View Elementary School in Acampo and its 410 students.
“It’s not a big district,” McDonald said. “There’s maybe 2,500 voters, I would estimate.”
Pearson, who has never personally experienced a tie during an election, said on Monday that he was interested to see how the tie would be broken.
“I don’t know what the procedure is, but I guess this Thursday at the board meeting, there’s going to be some kind of drawing of lots to see who wins,” he said.
A certified public accountant, Pearson expressed gratitude for being able to serve on the school board for the past four years.
“Hopefully, I’ll be able to continue to serve, but if not, Dustin’s been serving on the board for the past four years and doing a great job, and I believe he’ll continue to do a good job if he’s elected,” Pearson said.
Joel Blank, a political science professor at San Joaquin Delta College, said it is extremely rare for local elections such as school boards or city councils to end in a tie.
“On a national level, there has never been a U.S. Senate or U.S. House (of Representatives) race that’s ended in a tie,” Blank said.
Some races at the state or national level require candidates to win by a certain margin of votes — such as more than 50 percent — to prevent a tie, Blank said.
Most local elections do not have such a rule, he said, even though the races may be decided by as few as five votes.
“Like I tell my students, that’s why it’s so important to vote in local elections,” Blank said.