Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Getting 'Round To A Coin Toss

August's primary election is officially wrapped up, with the recessed Board of County Canvassers reconvening from Monday morning to approve all results and the write-in winners Tuesday afternoon.

One precinct committee race was tied, decided by a coin toss.  I was surprised we had a tie, in that I was surprised we only had one tie--we usually have more than one in August.

Each candidate had six votes and the statutes explain that ties are determined "by lot."

Lots are like toxins to me.  Ask people to define either and, chances are, you'll never get the same answer twice.

In my mind, lots are usually "cast." 

Likewise, votes are cast, and I can understand that, but I'm not sure how lots are cast.  By all accounts (literally, I think, but I think it may have only been 3 out of 4 gospel accounts), the garments worn by Jesus were split among Roman soldiers by casting lots.  Many movies have interpreted that as some sort of dice roll.

"By lot" seems like a very vague phrase.  We've always conducted a coin toss, but to be consistent with "casting lots," we first flip to see who calls the race and then flip for the outcome.  If it's a 3-way tie, we have a flipping playoff.

We attempt to call those who might be involved in a tie and, if they come, they get to be the potential coin callers.  I flip, the coin hits the floor, and, ostensibly, lots are cast.

It may seem like an insignificant thing, this 6-vote tie.  But precinct committee people are pulled in to elect representatives and senators in the cases of vacancies.  Johnson County averages about one of these a year.

So, if that vacancy happens to affect this precinct, this race has much more significance.  It decides who votes in the vacancy meeting and one vote (or non-vote if the person doesn't come to the meeting) can be a long-forgotten moment that helped propel a political career. 

Therefore, lots must be cast.  And, for that, a coin had to be secured.

I'm not a big fan of coins.  I believe, for instance, that the only thing a penny is good for is to keep you from getting four more if the price at a store ends with a "1" or a "6."

I had to go searching for quarters and found one, but there was no significance to the coin.  I had a Kansas quarter in 2012.  This year, it was just the old-fashioned type.

I found an app for my iPad that randomly flips an imaginary coin, but I'm afraid that might ignite some new "Black Tablet Voting," movement.  The lack of a coin-flipping paper trail may come into play as well.  And, for virtual money lovers, I don't know how I would ever flip a Bit Coin.

This whole coin toss thing, though, plays up the slow process when going through anything hand-counted, and while write-ins are tracked on voting machines, we hand enter all the write-ins into a database.  Then, our staff has to pull these 800 races together from the voting machine list and the paper-ballot list and begin eyeballing each race.

In one race, Ginny, Jane, and Janice actually were the same person.  We have to research that and then make sure the winner is actually eligible to win that race.  It's a slow burn.

Perhaps the new-fangled high-speed scanners have a way to optically recognize write ins.  I'll find out that specifically when I go to national election conference next week.  One of my missions next week will be learn about these scanners very quickly because we're likely to buy one (and all that comes with it) within the month.

We have five of our six school districts combining for a mail-ballot election in January--between the November and April general elections and we've never done that before.  So, in between two huge elections, we'll be mailing out about 350,000 ballots--different questions based on the districts.

We'll be processing around 175,000 pieces of paper in January and we've never done that before, either.  If there's ever a time to move from our rinky-dink four scanners to something big time, here we are.