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Who wins if two or more candidates get the same number of votes?

This is a rare event, but not impossible. If there is a tie between two candidates with the highest number of votes on a list for only one seat, the law stipulates that lots must be drawn to decide who is elected.

A case in point

23,979: this was the number of votes obtained by Monica Duca Widmer, National Council candidate in Ticino for the Christian Democrat People's Party (CVP) in the 2011 elections. However, 23,979 was also the number of votes obtained by Marco Romano, also standing as a CVP candidate in the National Council elections. Who got the seat? How was the problem resolved? First a draw was made automatically by a computer the evening the votes were counted, but this was later rejected by the Federal Supreme Court (see links to the two rulings below). On 25 November 2011, lots were then drawn manually to determine who had won the seat, and Marco Romano was declared the winner.

What the law says

The Federal Act on Political Rights, complemented by the two Federal Supreme Court rulings, states that if two or more candidates receive the same number of votes, the winner is decided by drawing lots. This must be ordered by the cantonal government, and carried out by and in the presence of a member of the same government, by hand and in public. All of the parties involved, in particular the candidates and members of their political party, have the right to be present at the draw.

An electronic draw is not permitted as “it does not adequately guarantee the two candidates the same possibility of being selected”, as is stated in the Federal Supreme Court ruling. It is not a method that accords the parties equal treatment.

Art. 20 Federal Act on Political Rights
Art. 43 Federal Act on Political Rights

Federal Supreme Court rulings

Anno 2012 (138) Volume II (pagg.5-12)
Anno 2012 (138) Volume II (pagg. 13-21)

Draws in history

Although possible, it is extremely rare for there to be a tie between two candidates for the National Council. Until now, the situation that occurred in Ticino is unique. However, the annals of the Federal Chancellery contain another case of a tie, one that was resolved differently from that in the 2011 election. We need to go back to 1939, when a draw had to be made in the canton of Basel-Landschaft between the two candidates Hugo Gschwind (CVP) and Walter Hilfiker (Socialist Party) as, under the former cantonal constitution, only one member of the cantonal government could be elected to the National Council. In the event, the conservative candidate won the seat. 

Last modification: november 2019