116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
More than a week after Election Day 2021, winners are still being determined in tie races. It’s a reminder that every vote matters, some say.
In Osceola, a tie for mayor was decided by picking a name out of a candy dish. The candidate whose name was not picked says he may contest the results over rumors that someone voted illegally, WHO-TV’s Dave Price reported.
In West Burlington, no one signed up to run for a partial term on the school board. The 20 write-in votes tallied by the auditor came out to a two-way tie, resolved this week using a red bucket at a board meeting.
And in Marion, an expected recount for an at-large city council seat could end with drawing a name. A one-vote lead was erased this week when election staff discovered an uncounted write-in vote for one of the candidates on the ballot.
Marion will march steadily in the same direction no matter who prevails in the recount and potential drawing process.
Despite these recent examples, tie races are exceedingly rare. And even in the off chance that your one vote does swing an election, your vote only matters if you care who wins. With choices like these, many Iowans don’t care.
The Marion contest stands out to me as an example of a race where one vote can make a difference - and yet would make no difference at all, really.
Incumbent Randy Strnad was appointed to the council by fellow members in 2016 and first elected in 2017. Challenger Dale Monroe is no outsider - he’s a former school superintendent and is a council appointee to the planning and zoning commission.
In The Gazette’s endorsement process, we asked candidates why they’re running. Strnad and Monroe focused exclusively on their own resumes, not on policy issues facing the city. On further questioning about the issues, the candidates were uniformly supportive of the city government’s current priorities. It was status quo versus status quo.
They both seem like fine candidates. Unless you know one of them personally or you have strong thoughts on facial hair, it’s hard to see how a voter could have a burning desire to elect one over the other. Marion will march steadily in the same direction no matter who prevails in the recount and potential drawing process.
(By the way, if it comes to drawing a name in Marion, could Linn County at least use an interesting receptacle? A couple Gazette colleagues suggested a cocktail shaker or the world’s largest fryin’ pan. A tie race for Hills mayor in 1995 is rumored to have come down to a Hills Bros. coffee can.)
Voting is the easy part, even with the extra barriers put in place by the state. In a local election, learning about the issues and the candidates is much more time consuming.
You could spend dozens of hours reading news, watching meetings and talking to the candidates. You might still find out in the end that none of the candidates is worth voting for or that they’re all good enough. You might then spend the 30 minutes you were going to use to vote and do literally anything else - pick up trash in your neighborhood, call an old friend, visit the library.
Your vote might count, but it doesn’t always matter.
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