I'm aware that if a vote is tied in an election, then a tie-breaker is conducted which leaves the result to chance. As far as I know in recent years this has only occurred in local council elections; for example in the 2017 Northumberland County Council election, the seat of the ward of South Blyth was decided by drawing straws as both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat candidates obtained 356 votes.

Has this tie-break scenario ever occurred during a contest for a House of Commons seat, either in a General Election or a by-election?

1 Answer 1


Yes - in Ashton-under-Lyne in 1886:

In the 1886 general election, there was a tie in Ashton-under-Lyne, with the Liberal and Conservative candidates each receiving 3,049 votes. The (Acting) Returning Officer gave his casting vote to the Conservative, John Addison.

That is no longer the practise. The article continues:

The modern convention is that, if votes remain level after recounts, the (Acting) Returning Officer will decide the winner by a random method


If a petition questioning the legitimacy of an election result is filed with the Election Petitions Office, the case may be heard in a special election court, under two judges with the same powers, jurisdiction and authority as a judge of the High Court.

The court has the power to confirm the result of the election, or to annul it, thereby causing a by-election.

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