In Jeannette, where no one ran on the ballot for city controller, 30 names were written in.By Jon Delano

GREENSBURG, Pa. (KDKA) – After all the ballots were counted in Westmoreland County, election officials say 39 local contests ended in a dead tie.

That means candidates will draw lots on Friday to determine the winners.

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A tie vote is pretty rare in elections, but it does happen, especially when there are races with no names on the ballot and voters are invited to write in names.

In 2019, lots were drawn in 10 tied races in Westmoreland County. This year, that has quadrupled to 39, affecting 177 write-in candidates in 28 municipalities.

While most of the undecided tied races are for constable, there are four council seats at stake in Adamsburg, New Alexandria, Sutersville and Youngstown and one city controller’s race tied in Jeannette.

“We have 28 constable races that ended in ties by write-ins, three auditor races, one controller race, two tax collector races and then we have two partial races that are tied,” Scott Ross, Westmoreland County’s acting co-director of the election bureau, told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Thursday.

Most of the candidates received one or two write-ins, and those in a tie vote have been invited to draw a number at the county courthouse on Friday.

“The decision has already been made that they will go alphabetical by last name for each race. Depending on how many people are tied for that race, we’ll put that many cards in a box,” says Ross. “They’ll pull out a card and whoever gets number one for that race wins. So as soon as someone draws one, then you have a winner.”

All those drawing number 1 in each of the 39 races will be elected, said Ross, but it’s up to each municipality to determine whether the winner is eligible and qualified, for example, a resident of that community.

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If the winner is not qualified or refuses to serve, then the municipality fills the vacancy as it would normally do, generally by appointment.

While most races only have a couple of write-in names, in Jeannette, where no one ran on the ballot for city controller, 30 names were written in.

“Thirty different people,” says Ross, “but we actually had 38. It was just 8 of them like Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, got ruled out, but 30 people – it was kind of amazing.”

Jeannette City Solicitor Tim Witt says when the incumbent decided not to seek reelection, he was surprised no one put their name on the ballot. Witt says it’s an important office.

“City controller is tasked with some of the financial management and oversight responsibilities for the city, so think of them as one of the checks and balances in city government,” says Witt. “They serve one of those management oversight functions, in addition to basically signing all the checks from the city that are distributed and should go out.”

With a tie vote, Jeannette’s next controller will be determined by drawing lots among 30 write-in names. Witt says the write-ins are a mix of qualifications.

“You have some former city officials. You have some current city officials. You have some residents who have been very active locally in the community,” he says. “And there are some names on there that even I don’t recognize.”

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The winner in this race and the 38 others will be a random luck of the draw. That will determine who gets sworn into office in January.