First councillor elected by drawing lots

May 8, 2010 | by | 0 Comments

A local election that ended in a dead heat was called by DRAWING LOTS for the first time in the UK, it has been revealed.

The race to claim the Avonmouth seat for Bristol City Council was run  alongside the general election on Thursday and the vote count began on Friday morning at 9am.

But after eight hours and three recounts frustrated election officials had to reveal that there was a tie between the Labour and Conservative candidates with 1,878 votes a piece.

Conservative Spud Murphy then lost his seat to Labour’s Doug Naysmith after returning officer Stephen McNamara drew the winner’s name – out of a voting box.

It is believed to be the first time a councillor has ever been elected by drawing lots.

Mr Naysmith, who only recently retired from being the MP for Bristol North West, said: ”It was a very hard-fought election and Spud and I were neck-and-neck nearly all the way.

”There was exactly the same number after the recounts so there was no alternative but to draw lots for it.

”It’s a pity – it would have been better for the people of Avonmouth to decide.

”It’s interesting that this should happen when electoral reform is on the agenda, this couldn’t have happened under a proportional representation system.”

The drama began when local election counts began at 9am on Friday and the initial result showed a Tory win by a margin of only ten votes.

But a box of misplaced ballots was suddenly discovered and a recount including the new ballots brought the total of votes for each candidate to an even 1,878.

Returning officer Stephen McNamara ordered another recount, but by 2pm officials had come back with the same result.

A new set of counters were rallied and another recount conducted, but at 4:30pm the result was returned with the same result for the Labour and Tory candidates.

Mr McNamara offered Naysmith and Murphy a fifth count – or the option of drawing lots.

The candidates then wrote their names on folded pieces of paper and dropped them into a black voting box.

After much nervous laughter Mr McNamara then reached into the box and drew out Mr Naysmith’s name to cheers from Labour members looking on.

Mr Naysmith, who says he retired as an MP to focus on community politics, added: ”I have lived in Shirehampton for 17 years, but it was one of nine wards and I often felt as MP I would have liked to have done more for my own constituency.

”Now I hope to be able to concentrate on improving the place where I live.”

Under Electoral Commission guidelines in the event of a tie between two candidates the returning officer must decide between the candidates by the addition of an extra vote decided by the drawing of lots.

How this is done is at the discretion of the returning officer.

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