In the New Hampshire House of Representatives, the election for Rochester Ward 4 ended in a tie between Republican David Walker and Democrat Chuck Grassie, following a recount.

Republican David Walker received one more vote than Democrat Chuck Grassie in the election night count, but the Wednesday recount found both candidates actually received the same number of votes: 970.

Ultimately, the state House voted for a new special election for the district.

An article in the New Hampshire Public Radio recapping the situation detailed the ways the state House could have resolved this situation.

Election night results showed Walker defeating the incumbent Democrat, Rep. Chuck Grassie, by one vote, but a recount ended in a tie. Lawmakers could have chosen the winner themselves or had the men share the seat, but Wilhelm, who offered the resolution ordering a special election, said those options would disrespect voters.

(emphasis mine)

One solution that strikes me as unusual is for the two candidates to "share the seat".

  • How would this work?
  • Is this exclusive to New Hampshire and has it happened before?
  • If not, is there any precedent for this in any other state legislature body?

2 Answers 2


Section 24 of Chapter 660 of Title 63, N.H. Stat. states:

If the candidates having the highest number of votes for the office of governor, councilor, state senator, or state representative shall have an equal number, the choice shall be made as provided in the state constitution. Such candidate chosen shall then be declared duly elected.

However, there is no explicit consideration for tied State House elections in the New Hampshire constitution, unlike the provisions for tied State Senate and Gubernatorial elections (Art. 34 & 42, N.H. Const.). Instead, Article 22 of the state constitution states:

The house of representatives shall choose their own speaker, appoint their own officers, and settle the rules of proceedings in their own house; and shall be judge of the returns, elections, and qualifications, of its members, as pointed out in this constitution.

The state house is thereby empowered to resolve tied votes as it sees fit. This usually takes the form of declaring the seat vacant, allowing a special election to take place. Most recently - until 2022 - this took place after the 1992 election, when the Republican party candidate Richard Hagan and the Democratic party candidate Thomas Kirby both received 1,919 votes for the third seat in Hillsborough county district 24. The House resolved this by passing House Resolution 10, which declared the seat vacant and allowed the town of Pelham to call a special election with just the two tied candidates on the ballot.

The 'sharing seat' solution described in the question appears to have occurred previously in New Hampshire in 1954. According to Paul Smith, the NH House Clerk, the House resolved to give each candidate half a vote in the body, and sat them both - but also describes the arrangement as unconstitutional as it brought the number of representatives to over 400. Article 9 of the state's constitution states:

The whole number of representatives to be chosen from the towns, wards, places, and representative districts thereof established hereunder, shall be not less than three hundred seventy-five or more than four hundred.

I don't believe this has ever been ruled upon by a court though, and reading through the House Journal from 1955 I can't find any mention of a tied vote or half-votes being awarded - although it is almost 2,000 pages long so I could have missed something.

  • 3
    All I can say is that this (a split seat) is an incredibly dumb concept. A coin toss, as bad as that is, is a better way to resolve a tie. That said, it's nice to know that some state other than my home state has some very dumb laws regarding elections. (We have some incredibly dumb election laws in Texas.) Dec 8, 2022 at 12:26
  • 4
    @DavidHammen A split seat may seem like a dumb idea but it's not too dissimilar to the arguably successful system of the two Roman consuls periodically swapping roles. Then again, perhaps the Roman defeat at the Battle of Cannae proves the folly of that system.
    – Null
    Dec 8, 2022 at 21:17

Q: How can two tied candidates in a New Hampshire House race "share the seat"?

The term used is "split seat", presumably each would get a half vote.

"The New Hampshire Constitution affords the full House the right to seat membership," [House Minority Leader Matthew Wilhelm] said. "In the case of a tie, which happens, not often, the House clerk explained that we have traditionally either returned the question to the voters, or created a split seat. In no instance have they just seated a member. Any attempt by us without further representation of the voters is wrong. [Fosters Daily Democrat]

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