Filling vacancies with the flip of a coin

BallotFilling vacancies on the Wichita City Council may soon be slightly less tedious. And if the council has stalemate votes like it did last year, a simple flip of a coin will break the tie. That’s according to a new proposal that the council plans to vote on March 15. Under the plan, council members would cast five rounds of votes in the first meeting in which they’re voting on candidates to fill a vacancy. If they deadlock, they cast five more ballots at the next regular meeting. Still stuck? They cast another five at the next meeting. Still can’t agree after 15 ballots? The mayor flips a coin and the winner gets the position.

Under an earlier proposal, Council members had suggested that the mayor should break the tie. But, given Wichita’s form of government, which doesn’t give the mayor any significant authority that council members don’t have, council members decided not to give the mayor any extra power. Previously, the city attorney had to break a tie. (During the conversation, Council member Sue Schlapp jokingly suggested that “we should flip the mayor.” But the coin ultimately prevailed.)

In June last year, City Council members each cast 20 identical ballots in hopes of filling the District 1 vacancy created when Carl Brewer became mayor. All resulted in three votes for Lavonta Williams and three votes for Treatha Brown-Foster. A week later, the Council on its first round of voting unanimously picked Williams, who will have the position until 2009.