Remembering The Election That Came Down To A Crude Drawing Will Make You Feel Better About 2016

09.30.16 3 weeks ago


Ahead of Monday’s presidential debate, CNN summarized several national polls suggesting Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were locked in a “dead heat.” Their analysis wasn’t that far off, as Bloomberg put Trump above Clinton at 43 percent and 41 percent when grouped with third-party candidates. As for Quinnipiac University’s poll, Clinton moved past Trump by merely one point with 44 percent and 43 percent. Considering the Republican nominee’s performance on Monday, recent erratic behavior, and the fact that historically neutral outlets are going out of their way to “dis-endorse” him, these numbers will undoubtedly change before the two face off again in October.

But what if they don’t? What if, by some cruel twist of fate, the these numbers didn’t venture too far beyond a tied election?

Due to the split between the electoral college and the popular vote, the U.S. presidential election will never come down to a single vote. (Sorry Swing Vote‘s Kevin Costner.) But smaller elections in other countries have, as was reportedly the case in the Austrian state of Carinthia in 2013. As one account of the matter frames it, a local seat’s next occupant came down to two choices — candidates representing the Bündnis Zukunft Österreich (BZÖ), or The Alliance for the Future of Austria, and the Greens. The legislative runoff resulted in a tie, and the deciding vote was cast in favor of the Greens — albeit with one important, confusing, and hilarious distinction. The decisive ballot’s vote was indicated by a “non-family safe” drawing.

In other words, a penis. Carinthia’s seat was supposedly settled by a single ballot on which the voter had picked his or her preferred candidate with a crude drawing of a dick.

“Well-informed sources” told local reporters about the alleged drawing, which was never confirmed nor broadcast by the media. Even so, there was enough of a ruckus to pit angry BZÖ party officials against happier Greens who, per the single ballot’s pointed indication, had just gained a seat from their competitor. Like many other Austrian parties vying for gains across the country, Carinthia’s BZÖ chapter was plagued by corruption scandals and a largely mistrusting electorate. As one exit poll demonstrated, 73 percent of voters thought “fighting corruption” was important enough to be the election’s second hottest issue, surpassed only by job creation. So every seat counted, dick or no dick.

Which is why BZÖ leader Stefan Petzner contested the ballot, declaring it “invalid” and demanding a recount. Per Petzner’s argument, the Carinthia seat “would actually be assigned to his party” if it weren’t for the apparently problematic vote. Which, to be honest, isn’t that far from the truth as Petzner’s party lost its potential third seat to the Greens by that lone vote. Along with issuing a formal complaint, the Carinthia BZÖ also staged a protest of a provincial electoral authority meeting scheduled after the election to consider the issue, but to no avail. Dongs prevail!

Yet Petzner and the BZÖ should be comforted by the fact that, three years on, their story of political upheaval staged against a massive, throbbing ballot won’t be forgotten. In fact, the case of Austria’s decisive dick joins an ever-growing pantheon of similar instances of election innuendo. Like when a voter drew a penis on his or her ballot to protest incumbent conservative MP Glyn Davies in Wales. Instead of logging the drawing as a protest, however, officials counted it as a vote for Davies and thereby ensured the MP’s hold on the seat.

“One voter decided to draw a detailed representation of a penis instead of a cross in my box on one ballot paper,” Davies wrote on his Facebook page. “I’m not sure the artist meant it to count, but I am grateful. If I knew who it was, I would like to thank him (or her) personally.”

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