It was the election that just wouldn't end — or so it seemed — Monday night at an Albertville City Council meeting.
A chance between heads or tails in a council coin toss declared incumbent Larry Sorensen as the winner of the race for city council. The question of who would fill the seat — Sorensen or candidate Mark Barthel — had been unanswered since the Nov. 6 elections.
The coin toss was, by law, the last procedure a council must do in a case like this one — a close election, a subsequent recount finding an exact tie, and lastly, a tie between city council members in determining who the vote was for in a challenged ballot.
After Thursday's recount results resulted in an exact tie between Sorensen and Barthel, Monday night's council meeting was to determine the voter intent on one challenged ballot.
With both men going into the meeting with 1,116 votes, the deciding factor was a ballot the election judges said counted for Sorensen that Barthel was challenging.
The vote on the ballot, as seen in the photo, was an oval that was not completely filled in. Instead, marks were made within the oval that would typically be completely filled in for a vote for Sorensen.
Albertville City Attorney Mike Couri explained in a memo to the council that they would need to determine voter intent and vote on whether they believed the vote was for Sorenson or not.
If the vote was decided for Sorensen, he would win the city council seat. If the vote was decided not for Sorensen, the council seat would remain a tie and a decision would be made by a coin toss.
"I thought it was just a pen mark," Barthel explained to the council as grounds for challenging the vote, noting that other votes on the ballot were filled completely in. However, some other offices were left blank.
"The intent was clear to me," Sorensen explained. "There was back and forth motion here."
Council members Dan Wagner and Jillian Hendrickson both agreed that they thought it was a vote for Sorensen. Mayor Mark Meehan and council member John Vetsch needed more time to discuss.
"The marks throughout the ballot aren't consistent," Vetsch said to the council.
When a motion was made to accept the vote for Sorensen, Wagner and Hendrickson voted yes and Meehan and Vetsch voted against the motion, making it a tie vote. Sorensen did not vote because it would be considered a conflict of interest, explained Couri.
"The ballot says to fill in the oval completely and this oval was not filled in completely," Meehan explained regarding his vote to not accept the vote for Sorensen.
"My read of the law is that if you are unable to determine voter intent, we go to a coin toss," Couri explained.
Meehan declared heads for Sorensen, tails for Barthel and city clerk Kim Olson flipped the coin.
It was heads, resulting in Sorensen being re-elected to council for four more years.