PEKIN — Flipping a coin can be a tough way to decide a tied election. Then again, it probably beats pistols at 20 paces.
“We just had a meeting, and one of the guys said, ‘I hope the laws have changed and it’s not a duel,’” said John Larimore, the Delavan Township highway commissioner.
Thanks to an unfriendly turn of a gleaming U.S. quarter, it appears Larimore soon will be the former Delavan Township highway commissioner.
An electoral tie between Larimore, a Democrat, and opponent Steven Scott was broken Thursday in the Republican’s favor. Each candidate in the election April 4 received 214 votes.
According to state law, tied races are to be settled by lot. In this case, that meant a coin flip in the downtown Pekin office of Tazewell County Clerk Christie Webb.
Ties in Tazewell County elections appear to be uncommon. Webb said she remembered one in a Pekin Park District board race a number of years ago, but that was about it.
“A lot of stress and anxiety,” Larimore, who has been commissioner for eight years, said about his pre-flip state of mind. “I want to know. Am I done? Do I go back to work? Do I go on vacation? I want to know.”
Unlike Larimore, Scott appeared not to be surprised this election might be resolved in such a manner. Both candidates appeared unsure, to an extent, about the contentiousness of the campaign.
“I knew it was going to be close,” said Scott, a retired state employee. “I didn’t agree with him on things that were being done. Money being spent in a manner that wasn’t benefiting the township. And a few things I saw out on the road that I didn’t agree with.”
Webb pulled the deciding coin from her purse, she said. Minted this year, the quarter featured a tails-side engraving of Effigy Mounds National Monument, located in northeast Iowa.
That image turned out to be a victorious one for Scott, who is to assume office next month. But first, another game of chance had to take place.
Before the flip, the political parties of both candidates were written on slips of paper and deposited into a can. Webb’s staff drew the Republican slip. That meant Scott would call heads or tails for the coin flip.
“There was a young kid who said, ‘Call tails,’ up at the Casey’s,” Scott said about the Delavan outlet of an Iowa-based convenience-store chain. “That’s what I stuck with.”
And that’s what Scott called after Assistant State’s Attorney Mike Holly flipped the quarter. It landed, face down, on a carpet on the floor of Webb’s office.
The winner and loser signed some official papers before they departed. Larimore — who works for Keystone Steel & Wire Co. in Bartonville — also requested a discovery recount, according to Webb.
Larimore will need to pay $10 to have votes re-tabulated in one of the three Delavan Township precincts. But Webb said she doesn’t expect the total to change, given the accuracy of modern vote-counting equipment.
She also suggested the tie-breaking procedure is appropriate. It probably beats a game of rock-paper-scissors, which apparently has been used in other jurisdictions.
“People say this is antiquated,” Webb said about the coin flip. “But what other methods could you use? We could have drawn out of a hat, but we did that to flip the coin.
“There are not many ways you can do it, unless you want to have another election, which is not what the statutes call for.”