AUSTIN, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — After unofficial returns for the March 1 primary election, two local races in the Texas Panhandle are currently tied. What’s next?
Sam Taylor, the assistant secretary of state for communications in the Texas Secretary of State‘s office, said it is more likely to see a tie in a small race than in a statewide race.
“As you get to the more local races, those margins usually get tighter and tighter,” said Taylor. “It’s extremely rare to see a tie, much less two ties within the same area or within counties next to each other. That’s an extremely rare case.”
Those two races are in Donley and Wheeler counties.
In the race for Donley County Commissioner Precinct 4, unofficial returns showed Republican candidates Brad Dalton and Dan Sawyer both received 74 votes.
In the race for Wheeler County Judge, unofficial returns showed Republican candidates Pat McDowell and Carol Porton both received 519 votes.
Taylor explained what happens in Texas elections in the event of a tie.
Click here to learn more about automatic recount procedures.
“In a primary, which requires the majority vote, if there is a tie—if more than one candidate ties for the highest number of votes, there is an automatic recount conducted,” he said. “Then if that recount yields the same exact results, if it’s a tie again, then it comes down to what’s called casting lots.”
“Casting lots is a very fancy legal term for rolling a dice or flipping a coin, some kind of game of chance where each person has an equal opportunity,” Taylor continued.
However, Taylor said it is important to remember that Tuesday’s returns are unofficial and still need to be canvassed.
“There might be outstanding mail-in ballots. There might be outstanding provisional ballots that still need to be counted and those can be counted up to six business days after the election,” said Taylor. “So we’ve actually got until next week, middle of next week, for any outstanding mail ballots or provisional ballots to be counted.”
He said the final official results could change between now and then.
“We might see, you know, one or two votes change and in both of those races, it just depends on what the results are of any outstanding mail or provisional votes when the votes become official at the local canvass,” Taylor added. “And that takes place next week.”
When an automatic recount is triggered, Taylor said the method of counting votes has to be done in the same way as the election that created the tie was counted.
Taylor also noted there is no possibility of a run-off election in either race since there were only two candidates in each.
He said the big takeaway is that every single vote matters.
“No matter how much you think that you know, your one vote might not be significant to the outcome of a big election, it can really, really matter at the local level,” said Taylor. “And this, I think, is proof that it matters more often than you might think.”