Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) The Ward 6 City Council race went to a recount on Wednesday, netting the incumbent candidate several additional votes, resulting in a tie.

Council member Sandra Vasecka trailed challenger Sean Patrick McCoy in the race after the Nov. 7 General Election by five votes. Under state law, the margin permitted Vasecka to request a recount, which she did.

That took place on Wednesday, resulting in a tie between the candidates. Under Montana law, City Council will now pick who it wants to take the seat.

"When a tied vote occurs in a municipal election, the governing body - in this case the City Council - will appoint the candidate to fill the vacancy," said Missoula County communications director Allison Franz.

Before the recount, Vasecka had 1,473 votes to McCoy's 1,478 votes. But after the recount, McCoy's tally dropped to 1,476 votes and Vasecka's winnings climbed to the same figure.

In other words, the recount found that McCoy had two more votes than he deserved and Vasecka had been cheated three votes. Between the two, it compensated for the five-vote margin.

“It could be the difference of the ovals being marked. The recount board makes the final determination,” said Missoula County Elections Administrator Bradly Seaman. “But that's exactly what this process is for, to make sure that as we go through here and it's a close race, the results that are on the paper ballots match the results in the system.”

With the race in a dead tie, the Missoula City Council will now appoint one of the two candidates. McCoy is a political newcomer but has served on the Missoula Consolidated Planning Board. Vasecka has served four years on City Council and is one of just two fiscal conservatives on the body who consistently sides with taxpayers.

But one of those conservatives didn't seek reelection and if the City Council opts for McCoy over Vasecka, the governing body will have no fiscal conservatives. The City Council politically is left leaning.

Asked why City Council gets to make the choice over holding a second election in Ward 6, Seaman said it's state law and not up to local officials.

“I do know tie votes have happened across the state before,” said Seaman. “This will roll over to the City Council, and they will make an appointment from one of the candidates. It's just following the process outlined in Montana Code Annotated. It's the law.”

Neither candidate could be immediately reached for comment.