On tie results in elections

It seems to me that there have been a number of ties in Massachusetts recently. First of all, the 6th Worcester District State Rep. race in November, which after a number of recounts and court challenges was deemed to be a tie. (Whether or not it should have been a tie might be up for debate, but that’s what our legal system seems to have produced.) A new election was held on May 10, and Mr. Durant is scheduled to be sworn in this week.

A “race” for Selectman in Boylston recently ended in a tie, where a write-in candidate who didn’t campaign but said “he would take the seat if elected” got exactly as many votes as the incumbent who was on the ballot. The recount showed the same result.

And in Becket, there was another tie vote for selectman, although presumably a recount may happen there as well.

Massachusetts law calls a tie result a “failure to elect”, which is a rather interesting result. It basically means that nobody won by getting a majority, so a new race would need to be held. I’m baffled why people would expect a new race to have a different result. It seems that it just changes the statistical sample slightly, such that you might get a different result, but it’s not clear to me that the result you get from that represents the people’s will any better than flipping a coin would.

And, it leads to the bizarre thought that if you as a voter didn’t like any candidates on the ballot, you should try to vote and campaign such that it was most likely to result in a tie. That way, you’d get your wish and nobody on the ballot would be elected.

I wish that we used a reasonable voting system. But I don’t know what system would actually be both understandable and most representative of “who people want”, whatever that might mean.