SPEARFISH - The deadlock in the Ward 3 Spearfish City Council election is broken.
After going through voters, three ballot recounts and a court hearing, all declaring a tie vote, newcomer David Baker and incumbent Shawn Dardis settled their showdown with dice and marbles Tuesday afternoon.
Baker rolled a 6 and Dardis a 3. That gave him the change to reach into a bag and either pluck the winning white marble or the non-winning black one.
He took his time. He carefully drew out the marble, keeping it hidden in his clenched right fist, then slowly opened his hand and … dropped the white marble into the waiting palm of Spearfish City Administrator Greg Sund.
That moment ended a two-month saga that went from the ballot box to city hall to the Lawrence County courthouse and back to city hall.
"Relieving," Baker said of the end of the election process. "We finally got to the point where we get to that outcome."
The drawing ended Dardis' 12-year council career. She said she also was relieved, but disappointed in the outcome. She said there is a very good possibility she will run again for public office.
Voters on April 14 tied at 126 for Dardis and Baker. Counters that night determined that one questioned ballot was an intended vote for Baker. The voter initially made a single stroke of the pen for Dale Brownell, a third candidate in the race who received 84 votes. However, a ballot notation apparently made by the voter indicated the vote was for Baker.
The Spearfish City Council canvassed the votes and upheld the tie. Dardis appealed.
A three-person recount board on April 29 voted 2-1 vote to qualify the ballot, sustaining the tie. Dardis appealed again.
Fourth Circuit Judge John W. Bastian followed suit on June 15, ruling all the valid ballots should be counted and the election was tied.
Spearfish does not have an ordinance governing tie votes and relies on a state law that requires a drawing of lots for a winner.
With the white marble victory, Baker was sworn in to his two-year term and will officially begin his duties today during a special meeting to consider proposed land uses at the mouth of Spearfish Canyon.
Meanwhile, the ballots and election records are sealed and will be kept in storage in case there are future questions, according to Lawrence County auditor's staff.