In a scene straight out of a bingo hall, Dan Roach spun a metal tumbler Tuesday and pulled out one of two plastic capsules.
Each contained the name of one of two candidates who finished in a tie.
“And the winner is,” said Roach, opening the green-and-white capsule. “Mr. John C. Perry.”
With that, the Pierce County Council and canvassing board member decided the contest for a Republican precinct committee officer in Fife.
The two candidates, Perry and Nathaniel Hackett, started the day tied with 94 votes each, even after a mandatory hand recount in the primary contest for Precinct 25-228.
The tie forced Pierce County’s election center to have its first lot drawing since 2008. That’s when another Republican precinct officer tie was decided with a manual tumbler.
Neither candidate showed up for the drawing Tuesday at the election center at the county annex.
Perry, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and precinct committee officer for the past 12 years, was on vacation and feeling lucky that he won without having to campaign.
“I got too complacent,” Perry, 79, said in a phone interview. “One vote does count. That’s for darn sure.”
Hackett was at work at his sales job for Comcast in Puyallup.
“It’s definitely slightly disappointing,” Hackett told a reporter, also by phone.
“It was a 50-50 chance,” said Hackett, 28, who was vying to be a precinct committee officer for the first time. “I was curious about how politics works.”
The Pierce County Auditor’s Office carried out mandatory recounts for the precinct committee officer position and for the District 4 seat on the Pierce County Council. The total cost to the county for the recounts was $26,113.15.
Most of the time, precinct committee officer positions are either uncontested or no one files at all.
Pierce County has 502 precincts, each with a Republican and a Democratic precinct committee officer.
This year, there were 83 contested races for these positions decided in the primary – 60 Republican and 23 Democratic.
The majority of the two-year positions had one candidate (325) or no candidate (596). In the nearly 600 cases where no one filed, the position must be filled by the chairman of the county’s central committee for that political party.
Each officer is a member of the central committee for that party. The committee has the authority to nominate candidates or fill vacancies on the party ticket for a state, legislative or county office that includes the entire county. Precinct committee officers take part in party activities and represent their party.
State law doesn’t dictate how to resolve a tie in an election. Some counties flip a coin.
The Pierce County Auditor’s Office uses the manual tumbler – a device it uses regularly to determine the order that candidates appear on the ballot.
Hackett looked on the bright side, despite finding himself on the wrong end of the luck of the draw.
“It’s not like it was a drawing for a bunch of money,” he said. “There will be other opportunities in the future.”