Thursday, January 15, 2015

Research Q of the Week: The Tie-Breaking Vote (1/15/15)

Question: We often times have a tie vote from the council. Can the mayor break a tie?

Answer: It depends on the situation. In a statutory city, each member of the city council, including the mayor, has a vote. If the mayor has not yet voted and there is a 2-2 tie, the mayor can cast a vote and, in essence, break the tie. If the mayor has already voted and there is a 2-2 tie, the mayor cannot usually break the tie by casting a second vote.

A common exception to this is when the council is filling a vacancy on council by appointment. If the council votes to fill a vacancy and there is a tie, the mayor may break the tie by appointing someone to fill the vacancy. In this situation, state law does not place any limitation on a mayor’s ability to make an appointment. As a result, the mayor can appoint any qualified person willing to fill the vacancy even if that person was not the subject of the original appointment vote. If the vacancy is for the mayor’s office and the council casts a tie vote, the acting mayor should make the appointment. The acting mayor may not, however, appoint himself or herself.

Charter cities often have different rules when it comes to the mayor voting—check your city’s charter to see what voting powers the mayor has.

Written by Amber Eisenschenk, staff attorney with the League of Minnesota Cities. Contact: aeisenschenk@lmc.org or (651) 281-1227.

This blog post conveys general information. It’s not legal advice. Please check with your city attorney before acting on this information.

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