Galveston ISD trustee race heads to runoff election after ending in tie

Incumbent trustee Mindy Lakin and challenger Ken Jencks, a former Galveston ISD board member, will compete in a runoff scheduled for Dec. 6.

Voting Sign
Lucio Vasquez / Houston Public Media
Voters in the Houston area recently cast their ballots for the 2022 midterm election.

Early last year, a mayoral race in a Southeast Texas town was decided by drawing a ping pong ball out of a hat.

A similar scenario could play out in Galveston ISD if the runoff for a board-of-trustees race ends up like it did on Election Day.

Incumbent trustee Mindy Lakin and challenger Ken Jencks each received 1,060 votes in the Nov. 8 election, according to online results posted by the Galveston County Clerk. They will compete again in a runoff election scheduled for Dec. 6, with early voting set for Nov. 28-Dec. 2.

What would happen if the runoff also ends in a tie? According to Galveston ISD’s board policy manual, an automatic recount would be conducted. If the candidates were still tied at that point, and neither chose to withdraw from the race, then board policy stipulates the “tied candidates shall cast lots to determine the winner,” meaning some sort of drawing would be held.

“Of course, we hope that's not the case,” Galveston ISD spokesperson Stephanie Fontenot said. “Hopefully that won’t even be an issue.”

But there is recent precedent in Galveston County, which is southeast of Houston along the Gulf Coast, for such a scenario. The runoff for the Dickinson mayoral race in late 2020 ended in a tie between Jennifer Lawrence and Sean Skipworth, the latter of whom was declared the winner after a ping pong ball with his name on it was drawn from a hat in January 2021, according to a report from Houston television station KTRK.

Jencks, a former Galveston ISD trustee who lost to Lakin in 2019 and is seeking a return to the board, led Lakin 715-678 in votes after this year’s early voting period. Jencks led by a mere six votes after ballots were tallied on Election Day, and Lakin subsequently made up the difference after qualifying mail ballots, oversees ballots and provisional ballots were counted, according to Ernie Murrie, an assistant elections administrator for the Galveston County Clerk.

It could be considered remarkable that an election with more than 2,100 votes cast ended in a tie, but it’s not unheard of in Galveston County.

“We’ve had it before,” Murrie said.