‘Because our bingo ball dispenser broke’: Why Spokane Co. elections use milk bottle to decide ties

One local race is headed for a tie-breaker.

It’s for Council Position No. 3 in the town of Fairfield, which is about a half hour drive south of Spokane Valley. Fairfield has a population of 612 (as of the 2010 census). In this election, exactly 78 people voted for each Dave Watling and Steven Walk.

Since the tally remains in a dead heat, it will go to a tie-breaker. State law requires the winner to be selected by a game of chance but does not specify a tie-breaking method that must be used.

In Spokane County, the method of choice uses a milk bottle and two balls. Each ball is given a number corresponding to a candidate. Whichever candidate’s ball is drawn from the bottle wins the election.

The tie-breaking method was used to decide a Precinct Committee Officer position in the 2018 primary election. Watch a video of that here.

Spokane County Auditor Vicki Dalton tells 4 News Now the milk bottle method has been used for the past 10-15 years. Why, you ask? “Because our bingo ball dispenser broke,” said Dalton.

Until it stopped working, the county had used a battery-operated mini bingo ball dispenser which would spit out one ball at a time. When it broke, the milk bottle took its place. “I truly have no idea where the milk bottle came from, no idea whatsoever,” said Dalton.

The recount is set for for 3 p.m. on Monday.