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Date of Issue: November 17, 2005

Term limit status quo after review in Bradenton Beach

Don't let it be said that your vote doesn't count - it most definitely did last week in Bradenton Beach.

City voters had 13 charter amendments to ratify or reject on the Nov. 8 ballot. One question on whether or not to change the term limits of elected officials from three two-year terms to four two-year terms resulted in a tie vote Tuesday night after the ballots were tabulated - the first tie vote in county voting history, according to Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Bob Sweat.

The matter became convoluted because, although state law is clear on what to do in the event of a tie vote between candidates, there doesn't seem to be any clear-cut rule on what to do if an issue results in a deadlock.

State law calls for a coin toss or a drawing by lot between candidates in a tie. A charter amendment, though, can't call heads or tails of a coin.

The matter became moot, though, after Sweat conducted the mandatory recount of the vote, required whenever an election result is less than one-half of one percent of the total.

In Bradenton Beach, it seemed, there were four people who cast blank ballots and there was one "overvote" - a ballot marked in both the "yes" and "no" ovals - for the term-limit question. The optical reader that counts the votes rejected the ballot.

Sweat called a meeting of the city's canvassing board last Thursday. He, City Clerk Nora Idso and City Attorney Ricinda Perry, went over the ballot and determined that the voter, although indeed making a mark in the "yes" oval, had clearly, darkly and completely colored in the "no" space.

The final decision - term limits will stay at three two-year periods for Bradenton Beach elected officials, 103 to 102.

Sweat said he could remember only one other tie vote in recent history, for a commission seat in the city of North Port in Sarasota County. It was determined that the candidates would determine the winner through a coin toss, but one candidate dropped out of the race at the last minute on the grounds that a commission seat was too important a position to be determined by an act of gambling.