It’s not everyday that a coin flip determines the fate of a four-year city council seat.
But that’s exactly what occurred in Albertville Monday, Nov. 19, and incumbent Larry Sorensen won the toss.
It began after the Nov. 6 election when Sorensen was one vote shy of challenger Mark Barthel. Upon a recount at the Wright County Courthouse, Sorensen and Barthel ended up in a tie, each receiving 1,116 votes.
But there was one challenged ballot that was partially filled in for Sorensen. Had the canvassing board, in this case the city council, approved the challenged ballot in Sorensen’s favor, Sorensen would have been declared the winner. Yet Mayor Mark Meehan and city councilor John Vetsch weren’t entirely convinced the ballot was a vote for Sorensen, and voted against accepting the ballot.
Councilor Jillian Hendrickson, who was elected mayor Nov. 6, and councilor Dan Wagner voted to accept the ballot; Sorensen abstained due to conflict.
“Therefore it remained tied,” city clerk Kim Olson said. “Because of that, the council can’t vote on that item so it comes down to a determination of lot, in this case a flip of the coin. We flipped a coin and it came up for (Sorensen).”
In a strange twist of irony, Sorensen now has a chance to appoint Barthel to the council. Because Hendrickson has two years remaining on her term, a new city councilor must be appointed to fill her term. City attorney Mike Couri explained that the council could consider the next highest vote-getter, or could receive letters or interest, or do applications and interviews.
“That is something we’ll have the council look at during the first meeting of the new year (when the new council convenes),” Olson said.
Olson also said she was impressed by the professionalism of the city council during this whole process.
“The council was so civil, so respectful of the process,” Olson said. “It was so nice even after the meeting (Barthel) shook (Sorensen’s) hand.”
Sorensen released a statement noting that the challenged ballot was indeed accepted by the voting officials during the recount, until it was challenged, “so I was actually ahead by one vote going into Monday night’s meeting,” he said. “Voter intent does not require the entire oval to be filled in. In my opinion, the voter’s intent was clear on this ballot.”
Sorensen said he was excited to remain on the council “serving the people of Albertville,” and with such a close election was particularly thankful to each voter on his side.
“Your vote truly made the difference!” he said.