Grant County votes down new pool in rare tie

By Antonio Sierra (OPB)
June 14, 2022 11:54 p.m.

Voters were evenly split on $4 million bond, but lack of a tiebreaker means the tax measure for a new public pool fails

The bond to build a new pool in John Day failed by a zero-vote margin.

Along with the rest of the state, Grant County certified local election results on Monday. The official results showed that the vote for a $4 million bond was deadlocked: 802 residents in the John Day/Canyon City Parks and Recreation District voted for it and 802 against it.


But because the bond could not secure at least a one-vote margin of victory, Grant County Clerk Brenda Percy said the effort failed and will not proceed. According to Percy, state law doesn’t provide any tie-breakers for tax measures.

A ballot drop box outside the Grant County Sheriff's Department, August 29, 2019.

A ballot drop box outside the Grant County Sheriff's Department, August 29, 2019.

Emily Cureton Cook / OPB


“You can’t draw straws when it comes to $4 million in taxes,” she said.

The extreme closeness of the race triggered an automatic hand recount, but Percy said she’s confident the results will hold once the process is complete on Tuesday.

The election results have been close since election night. Early results showed the bond vote was tied before a small trickle of ballots that arrived after Election Day pushed the “no” vote ahead by six votes.

The decisive batch of votes was a group of 16 ballots the clerk’s office withheld from the count because their signatures didn’t match the ones on file. Once the relevant voters were notified and given the chance to verify their identity, the election returned to a dead heat.

Barring a surprise during the recount, Grant County will now go without a public pool. A joint project between the Parks and Recreation District and the city of John Day, the new pool was supposed to replace the 64-year-old Gleason Pool, which is in the process of being demolished.

The John Day/Canyon City Parks and Recreation District did not immediately return a call requesting comment.

While ties in local elections are rare, the result of the pool election isn’t unique. Percy said she administered municipal elections where two candidates tied and the election was decided by coin flip or a drawing of straws. But Percy said overseeing a tie for a district election with many more voters was a new experience for her.