01 October 2009

Dear Ralph: resign

Ralph Wiseman was screwed either way.

On election night, the veteran politician lost his seat as mayor of Paradise to a 19 year old up-start.  he lost by a mere three votes.

So Ralph asked for a recount.

If the recount affirmed his loss, he was out of a job.

If the recount put him on top, then Ralph could only stay in office dogged by the knowledge he had pissed off enough of his residents that they would rather see a kid run the place before him.

He’d be the lamest of lame ducks for four years.

But now Ralph Wiseman has found a way to screw himself in a whole new and even more politically painful way.

After today’s recount, Wiseman and challenger Kurtis Coombs were tied.

So someone drew a name - no shit; that’s what they did  - and Wiseman is back.

Holy Dead Duck, Wise-man.

Ralph is foolish to be grinning and claiming he won fair and square.

Maybe he did, but there’s no mistaking the fact that right now Wiseman does not have the comfortable support of a majority of the people of  the town called Paradise. His election lacks legitimacy.

Wiseman got the job because someone pulled his name out of a hat.  What’s next, election at the local amusement arcade?  Break the balloon with this blunt dart and you could win a cheap stuffed toy or be mayor of the fastest growing town in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The only thing for Wiseman to do if he wants to govern is  resign.  Resign and cause a by-election to take place for the mayor’s seat.  Call it a run off.  Maybe someone else will come forward.  Maybe no one will.

But at least at the end of the contest Wiseman can say the choice was unmistakeable and democratic.  In a healthy  democracy, only the voters get to make the choice. 

As it stands right now, Wiseman stands to have nothing but political trouble for the next four years.  At the very least he’ll be a laughing stock across town and across the province.

And frankly, having  accepted this ridiculous way of settling the tie, Wiseman deserves every ounce of grief, every snicker he gets.



Devil's Advocate said...

So how should a tie be settled?

WJM said...

Municipal Elections Act:

60. Where, upon the counting of the votes, 2 or more candidates have an equal number of votes and both or all of those candidates cannot be elected, the returning officer shall immediately

(a) write the names of those candidates on separate, identical blank sheets of paper;

(b) fold the sheets of paper in an identical manner so that the names are concealed;

(c) deposit them in a receptacle and withdraw the number of the sheets necessary to elect the candidates required to be elected; and

(d) declare the candidate whose name appears on the sheet withdrawn, to be elected.


65. (1) Following a recount under section 62 or 64, the returning officer shall declare to be elected the candidate having the largest number of votes, together with, in the case where more than one candidate is entitled to be elected, the candidates up to the remaining number entitled to election standing next in order on the basis of number of votes received.

(2) In the event of a tie the election of a candidate shall be carried out by the returning officer in the same manner as provided in section 60.

Anonymous said...

Ed, I could not agree more. Wiseman has shown himself to be a sore loser and an even worse winner.

I doubt he will resign and trigger a re-run of the vote, he is quite happy to grasp at victory no matter how it comes his way. The man has very little class it would seem.

Perhaps the developers will be pleased to have King Ralph back in the saddle, however it would seem that a sizable number of the citizens of Paradise will be unhappy for another four years.

I don't believe we have seen the last of the young fellow who was mayor for a day.

Mark said...

The law is the law. The Returning officer appears to have followed it. Regardless of how you feel about the results, and about the winner, I imagine you'd be even more upset if the returning officer settled this in some other fashion?

Chris Callahan said...

With all due respect Mark - and the law is the law - Mr. Coombs still has the right to ask for a judicial recount. He initially won by three votes and there was a tie. Not possible without a spoiled ballot(s). Coombs is within his right to seek a recount.

And Ed is right, Wiseman should see the writing on the wall and listen to what people are saying. Unfortunately, that was never one of his strong suits.

Nancy Crozier said...

Sounds like a pretty standard practice. In my hometown in Ontario, a tie for councillor was broken in the same way a few years ago.

Nancy Crozier said...

But I do agree that it seems ridiculous on the heels of appearing to lose to a 19 year old.

Edward G. Hollett said...

The process used may be the one set down in the act however, it is not the one that lends any legitimacy to the victory in this case.

When I wrote that Ralph had found a way to screw himself up even more, I was referring to accepting the result with the attitude that he now won and therefore could gloat. He's been ducking any comment until now and that just makes him look like he was penderising.

There's obviously enough of a problem for Ralph in the community that this situation came about in the first place. This cheesy way back to the mayor's chair - even if it is the mechanism set down in the Act - coupled with his comments to the media now make the political problem he faces infinitely worse.

Coombs is now looking for a judicial recount.

The saga is far from over.

Ward Pike said...

There can't be an odd man out here. There can't be a dissenting voice. Can there?

This is just flabbergasting.

Equal stunning: Ed and I agree.

Mark said...

Chris/Ed - I agree wholeheartedly, and he should exercise that right to a judicial recount.
I took your post to be a criticism of the tiebraking process, which is the only one available to the returning officer.
I have no interest whatsoever in admonishing Mr. Wiseman's subsequent behaviour. Acting like a twelve-year-old is hardly the way to react to winning the equivalent of a coin toss.

Mark said...

"The process used may be the one set down in the act however, it is not the one that lends any legitimacy..."

Sorry Ed, being the one set down in the Act is PRECISELY what lends it legitimacy.

If not from its enabling statute, from what other source would "legitimacy" be derived? By noble fiat? From a VOCM poll?

WJM said...

Using a random method to decide a tied (and not-controverted) election is widespread. The people, after all, did speak. As long as everyone agrees that the tie was legitimately arrived at, then if it's what the law lays down as the deciding method, there's nothing really wrong with it.

A draw is used to settle a tie municipal election in every province and territory except MB and BC, where a new election is held. (There may be some other exceptions in cases where a city has its own standalone election law.)

At the legislative level, though, the draw is much less favoured. It is used to settle a tied legislative election in NS and Yukon, while PEI favours the coin toss. (It's in the statute. Coin toss.)

In NB, ON, and AB, the returning officer casts the deciding vote. (Ordinarilly, the RO wouldn't vote at all.)

In NL, QC, MB, SK, BC, NWT, and NU, the result is set aside and a re-vote is held.

Edward G. Hollett said...

Mark, there is a difference between what is legitimate in that it is spelled out in the law versus what is legitimate in the minds of the public as being fair or better.

I do not wish to speak for the public mind merely to draw the distinction between what the law may provide in a certain case and what may be recognised as being a better way to do things.

Legally Ralph can carry on about his business safe in the knowledge he has complied with the law.

However, there will be a great many who will point to the fact that he did not win in the vote but had to resort to the vagaries of a random selection in order to get his seat.

It's the equivalent of getting off on a technicality. In this case he got in on a technicality.

Now all that may not matter a row of beans when it comes to signing the paycheques and officiating at functions.

But politically, he stands an excellent chance of being somewhere between a lame duck and a dead one.

And if you listen to his interview this afternoon, he sounds like he is hell bent on being so almost completely dead so that even Miracle Max couldn't bring him back.

He is going to carry on as if none of this ever happened. Clearly, though, the events of the past four years would strong suggest a change in course and approach is desperately needed.

It isn't an issue of the letter of the law of what would be better politically, to my mind.

Anonymous said...

Totally Agree Ed! The guy may have won the coin toss but all creditability is gone. Do the noble thing Wiseman!

Edward G. Hollett said...

And just to be clear, 2219 and others, I think Ralph should fight again in a re-match.

He might well win unquestionably.

Wally's information leads to an interesting point: if a re-match is the preferred way of settling a tie at the legislative level then it is good for the municipality as well. The law should provide otherwise and if a re-match can be done, it would be far better in the long run for all concerned.

Chris Callahan said...

Good points Wally, but I think the key issue here is controvertible. My sense is that some people feel the result was not legitimate. Surely a recount that ends in a tie should not unchallenged.

Whether or not I like the result is moot. Wiseman used the law and Coombs should too.

Mark said...

Ed, this is why we have laws. If there is a more publicly acceptable method, it should be codified in statute. Until it is, then accepting the legitimacy of the legislation is much preferable than making off the cuff declarations of what's suddenly publicly popular. That's the very kind of practice that you (and I) find deplorable most days of the week.

On a side note, at 50%, whoever won that draw can claim a greater mandate than most MHAs and MPs.

Anonymous said...

Where was Minister Joan Burke when all this was going on? Surely she'd have come up with a far more democratic solution.

WJM said...

if a re-match can be done, it would be far better in the long run for all concerned.

I agree.

WJM said...

Good points Wally, but I think the key issue here is controvertible. My sense is that some people feel the result was not legitimate. Surely a recount that ends in a tie should not unchallenged.

There is no "but". I agree. Mind you, assuming there are no other challenges either forthcoming or allowed, Wiseman "won" the election according to the law. But either temporarily losing the election to Coombs, or just winning it on a rare technicality, certainly tarnishes his term (if he ends up having one) and depletes any political capital he has on day one. And his sore-loser AND sore-winner antics, all within the space of 24 hours, just further serve to snatch moral defeat from the jaws of wierd, wierd, technical "victory".

He's not a lame-duck mayor, he's pâté.

Edward G. Hollett said...

mark, it's not an off the cuff anything about popularity.

The guy is in a political hole and no legal finery will extricate him from it.

Essentially what you are arguing is akin to the MHAs who argued that they could hand out cash free and clear because that's what the law (the rules) allowed.

Interesting approach but I doubt you'd get many people to buy it.

Mark said...

Nope - all I am saying is the returning officer handled the recount the only way he could, the way the statute instructed him/her to. There's no statute that tells MHAs to hand out cash.

By suggesting that it be settled in another manner, you're arbitrarily empowering someone to make an arbitrary decision above and beyond their statutory authority. That's a scary precedent.

What you are arguing is like saying that instead of counting the ballots as provided for under the law, we'll just assume CRA's polls are correct and go from there.

Edward G. Hollett said...

Nonsense, Mark, that's not what I am saying at all.

I am suggesting Ralph make a conscious choice NOT to use the recount process provided in the statute but use the electoral process spelled out in the statute instead.

I am specifically rejecting a random chance method, even if permissible under the law, after a recount ends in a tie and replace it with the original, prefered method of selecting representatives: the ballot box.

Rather than leave the choice to a judge or the town clerk, I am putting the choice back in the hands of the elctors where it belongs in the first place.

WJM said...

I am specifically rejecting a random chance method, even if permissible under the law

It's not permissible under the law... for better or worse, it's required under the law.

Anonymous said...

You say you're putting the choice back in the hands of the electors but why? They had that chance and they decided that it was a tie. Why should they get to vote again?

How would another election work? Would it be restricted to the two current candidates or others? Would only the same voters get to vote again or would you allow others who passed up on that opportunity to now vote? How are any of those things more "fair" then deciding a tie by a draw?

The information out there is mostly inaccurate, especially the nonsesnse spouted by both candidates and some of the stuff by the local media. Things like what the purpose of the recount is, that it's NOT before the supreme court, that the draw to break a tie is the standard across the country. And most interestingly is the very possible outcome that the judicial recount will end in another tie which will mean the names get drawn all over again!

Then if by chance the youngster gets in will he complain about the process being unfair or undemocratic as he has been doing or will the oldster tout the legitimacy of the process and agree that his opponent has won fair and square. Highly unlikely for either. much more likely is thatin the end the loser will take this to the supreme court and claim some kind of voting irregularities occured just to try and push it to it's extreme.

In the end all i can say is I'm glad I don't live in Paradise because after what I've seen of both candidates there both yahoos and I wouldn't want either for Mayor of the fastest growing municipality in Atlantic Canada.

As a final note, the amount that the common person knows about the electoral process and simply municipalities in general is enough to make me want to move to some place warm and undemocratic. Churchill was right "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter."

Edward G. Hollett said...

If you go back to the original post 1557, the idea was to cause another election in which the first two could run and if someone else wanted to join the fray, all the better.

You can go through the recounting process and so forth. In that instance, it winds up being a bit like Florida in 2000.

All I suggested was that, given the circumstances, better to go back to the electors and let them sort it out. I haven't heard a reason yet, let alone a good reason, why that couldn't happen.