In cities across North Carolina, one vote can decide an entire election, according to a new study published by Democracy North Carolina.
Democracy NC analyzed elections in November 2015 and found 31 cities where a mayor or councilmember was elected by the margin of one vote, or a tiebreaker. The researchers also determined that 69 cities had races decided by five or fewer votes.
According to the study, tiebreakers were typically broken by the flip of a coin — though some cities became creative in their method. In Garland, for example, a tied vote resulted in a city council candidate winning by pulling a purple pen from a box.
“It does, in fact, turn out that one person can make the difference whether someone wins or loses,” said Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy NC. “That candidate winning can be a stepping stone for a higher office in the state legislature, or even U.S. senator.”
He said U.S. Sen Thom Tillis, R-N.C., tied with another candidate in a Cornelius town commissioner election. Tillis won a two-year term in the tiebreaker, opening an opportunity for him to run for the state legislature.