Election tie: Candidate wins by pick from a hat

Published on Sunday, 4 May 2014 22:59 - Written by KELLY GOOCH kgooch@tylerpaper.com

A tied election three decades ago in Cherokee County led to drawing names from a hat to determine the winner.

The race — for Precinct 3 commissioner — was a runoff between Jim Tarrant Jr. and Joe Henderson, the incumbent.

Each candidate received 647 votes, and based on the election code, a tie would be resolved by casting lots, County Clerk Laverne Lusk said. So she said Tarrant and Henderson put their names in a hat, and a third party drew Henderson’s name.

Tarrant said he called for a recount, which as he best recalls, showed that Henderson had received one more vote.

“It is unusual to have a dead even tie. It definitely motivated me ...” Tarrant said. “That demonstrated how important every vote is. I’m a living example that’s a true statement.”

But back then, at age 27, he was confident that he would win, Tarrant said. In fact, he went out of town to the lake on Election Day. However, he said he later realized that he should have called people to go vote in the runoff instead, and has learned the importance of encouraging likeminded people to get to the polls.

In 1984, Tarrant said, early voting was not emphasized, and Election Day was more critical.

But overall he said the experience was educational and propelled him to become more involved in party politics, though he’s not as involved as he once was.

“It was kind of that moment. It was interesting. I learned a lot. I really learned a lot about elections,” Tarrant said.

Tarrant went on to run for the Jacksonville ISD school board. He lost twice, but was elected the third time he ran. He served a total of 11 years on the board. Henderson died in November 2001.

Shelley Cleaver, with the Cherokee County Historical Commission, said having a tied election is rare, and it made a lot of news at the time.