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Coin flip determines winner in tied race for Republican PCO

Carolyn Simpson beats Sean Emerson in game of chance

By , Columbian politics reporter
Published:
3 Photos
Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey, right, watches the quarter fall during a coin flip Wednesday morning in the Elections Office to determine the winner of Precinct Committee Officer 692.
Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey, right, watches the quarter fall during a coin flip Wednesday morning in the Elections Office to determine the winner of Precinct Committee Officer 692. Nathan Howard/The Columbian Photo Gallery

Clark County’s “Flippin’ Quarter” was dusted off for the second time in the last 20 years and called to duty Wednesday. A quick toss by Auditor Greg Kimsey determined Carolyn Simpson winner for Precinct Committee Officer 692.

Simpson ran against Sean Emerson for the chance to represent Republicans in the northeast Vancouver district, but the race garnered equal votes — 49 to 49.

Last week, a formal recount confirmed the election result that led to Wednesday’s event.

There were 105 undervotes, which Simpson said demonstrates the power of the individual voter.

Although, in this situation, the power was placed in a game of chance.

The process is outlined by state law. A coin toss is used to determine the winner of a tied race regardless of stature. The last previous coin toss in Clark County had been for PCO 965 in 2012. There were two coin tosses supervised by the previous auditor, Liz Luce, during her 12-year tenure.

Before the coin flip, a random selection process was needed to determine which candidate got to call heads or tails. Some states draw ping-pong balls, select names out of a felt hat, pull straws, or in some instances, play a single hand of poker. Kimsey opted for picking tiles.

Simpson and Emerson drew numbered tiles from an Americana-themed quilted bag, and Simpson had the literal luck of the draw with the higher number. She drew 174 to Emerson’s 67.

The entire electoral process took less than two minutes.

Simpson said she was “not as nervous as the coin.”

“Statistically, I believe, heads come up more often,” she added, justifying what would prove to be a successful pick.

The selection was certified with the signing of an election certificate.

Every vote matters

Simpson said she didn’t expect the election to be a tie, given the effort she and Carolyn Crain, a local Republican Party activist, put into encouraging the community to vote in every race.

“Apparently, 105 did not,” she said. “I don’t know what else we could have done.”

She added that if more people voted, it could have saved the county a lot of money, “because I know this is expensive.”

But given the circumstances, the process was fair, Simpson said.

“Actually, I thought since maybe (Emerson) was the first person on the ballot he would (call the toss), but that may have been a little fairer,” she said. “It may have been the same outcome — who knows.”

Moving forward, Simpson said, she hopes to offer a message of unity to Emerson’s supporters.

“We have to do this together, we have to be unified, or this isn’t going to work,” she said.

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Columbian politics reporter