Canada’s weirdest laws: Alberta municipal election ties are decided by random draw

Alberta used the hat draw method as recently as 2013. (Photo: REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)
Alberta used the hat draw method as recently as 2013. (Photo: REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

As if the upcoming United States election campaign hasn’t turned into enough of a bizarre spectacle of mudslinging, Canada is offering its own weird take on election outcomes.

Alberta municipalities have an easy, low-tech way to decide election ties: draw the winner’s name out of a hat.

 “If a tie determines who is elected or not, the retuning officer writes the names of those candidates on separate pieces of paper and “draws a name from a hat”, according to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. The name on the withdrawn paper is considered to receive one more vote.”

While hats are popular accessories and keep your head warm in winter, you have to wonder whether it isn’t time to find a more modern tie-breaking solution. Of course the province doesn’t seem to see the need as they recently used the hat method just a few years ago.

In late 2013, there was an incident after the Edson, Alta. municipal elections results were thought to have ended in a tie between candidates Kim Gomuwka and John Walker. Out came the hat and Walker’s name was drawn.

Unfortunately for Walker, a judicial recount later determined that the tie was actually between Gomuwka and another candidate, Troy Sorensen. Once again, the hat was whipped out and this time Gomuwka won.

Don’t go thinking though that Alberta is the only province whose election tiebreakers are old-fashioned though. In Prince Edward Island, election ties are decided by — wait for it — a coin toss.  That’s right, heads or tails, you’re it!

Hopefully these methods won’t be recycled for the U.S. presidential election next week.
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