Chicago Suburb using Bingo as a Political Problem Solver

innerchicago23042015Some have referred to the race pitting candidates Brian Wojowski and Michael Lambert against one another as an example of democracy at its best. After a long campaign season and an unquestionably tight race, the results are in, and it’s a tie. Yes, you heard that right. In the election for the position of trustee in Plainfield, Illinois, the results are inconclusive!

That’s where bingo comes into play. In order to determine a winner when voters can’t, officials turn to the game’s classic system of randomly drawn balls. On Friday, the 741 vote stalemate will come to an end, as two bingo balls – numbered one and two – are placed into a small box for the candidates to select. After the two candidates make their choices, the balls will be revealed and the person with the number one ball will win the race.

The two weary candidates were left shaking their heads when interviewed about the proceedings. After months of draining campaign preparation, it was difficult to pinpoint a single facet that could have been improved to garner the lone vote needed to clinch the victory.

While it may be the first you’ve heard of bingo balls in a democratic forum, it’s far from an isolated incident. In 2013, for example, the trusty spheres were the deciding factor in a tight race for Elwood village trustee, and the suburb’s 2009 race for school board members followed the same formula. Though bingo balls will be used to determine the winner, candidates will have the right to file for a recount, but candidates in previous races ended in bingo pulls have always yielded this option.

According to Will County Clerk Nancy Schultz Voots, the high rate of close races is a direct result of low voter turnout. Of all registered voters, only 15 percent voted in the April 7 election for trustee, which led to unusually tight results. In total, four of the six candidates who ran in the election for the three spots on the board finished with vote totals within nine votes of the others.

The election is yet another example of the nearly limitless versatility of bingo in nearly every situation. With relatively simple rules and an ample supply of tweaks, the game has been used for purposes ranging from education to entertainment and nearly everything between. Despite the fact that the Plainfield election doesn’t use bingo cards, the bones of the games are still easy to see. Just imagine that both candidates need a one for the bingo, and get ready for the excitement when one gets it first!

Much like a coin toss, bingo provides players with a truly random opportunity to win, which can be both exhilarating and frustrating, depending on who wins. The simplicity and overall fairness, however, seem to have secured bingo’s place as a favorite among people who enjoy a bit of chance from time to time. Whoever wins in the election, there’s little doubt that bingo’s popularity will continue to grow in a variety of fields for years to come.