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Tied Race in Cochran County Settled by Drawing Marbles From A Bag

Paul Miles sent me this Lubbock Online story from Cochran County, highlighting the amusing ways in which people interpret the “casting of lots” to settle hopelessly deadlocked elections. Why marbles? Who knows. But it does remind me of an old joke:

Dr. Resartus “Muzz” Longfish and his colleague Carlos “The Jaguar” Aguilar were relaxing over a few beers at the local watering hole, when Carlos asked, “Muzz, how did you become an expert in election law?”

Muzz thought for a moment, and replied. “When I was a young man, the government of a small town asked me for my advice in settling a nigh intractable local problem. The electorate was well and truly deadlocked, and owing to various family and business affiliations, exactly one-half of the voters favored one candidate for mayor, while the others had voted for the incumbent’s hated foe.”

“Well, then and there, I promptly hied myself to the local dry goods store, where I purchased a bag of marbles. I then proceeded to inform the city fathers of that tried and ancient method of political resolution whereby the citizens, for want of any capacity for intelligent solution of their differences, would resign themselves to the whims of fate. Which is to say, they would draw lots and let the goddess Chance herself rule in their stead.”

“Seeing as how this was such a respectable and ancient tradition, and had the weight of centuries to recommend it, the candidates and constituency were all agreed. Leaving one white and one black marble in the bag, I described how one candidate should draw. Whosoever would be left holding the black marble would accept defeat, and whosoever drew the white would be the victor, inasmuch as if people had actually chosen of their own free will.”

“And so it was done, and one candidate was the winner and the other the loser, and all argument ceased. Until the next year, when the same circumstance arose again. And again. And again. For the people of that town were the most stubborn, temperamental lot that you can imagine, and nothing would sway them from their ingrown political dispositions. Year after year, I was called upon to settle their differences in the same manner, gaining over time a reputation for Solomonic wisdom and forethought. And then one day it was obvious that I had become an expert in elections.”

Carlos leaned forward. “How did you know?”

“Why, it was plain as could be. I had lost all my marbles.”




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