"Right now it's a dead heat," said Marilyn Cole at her south-central Pennsylvania home in Gettysburg. "It's amazing that our little county, Adams County [Pop. 57,000], is causing this big panic in the state."
Mrs. Cole's husband, Kenneth, was meeting all day yesterday with his lawyer and out-of-town lawyers to discuss the strategy for a problem that may paralyze the state House of Representatives in Harrisburg for some time.
Unofficial returns in Tuesday's election show that Cole, 42, a two-term Democratic state representative, tied with his Republican challenger, Donald Moul, 50, a businessman, at 8,567 votes apiece.
The tie vote in the Adams County race has left a tie in the state capitol where exactly 101 Democrats and 101 Republicans were elected to the House of Representatives. It also left open the possibility that the majority of the House and the powerful speaker's position will be left to the toss of a coin.
The eyes of both political parties will be on the Adams County courthouse this morning in Gettysburg where 49 sealed ballot boxes will be brought from a locked jail cell and opened by the Board of Elections for an official tabulation of the paper ballots.
If the official count of the tally sheets in each of the ballot boxes is still a tie, state election law dictates that the winner be determined by drawing lots - a coin toss or drawing of straws - in the office of the secretary of the commonwealth of Harrisburg.
The stakes are high because the majority party in the House selects the speaker, who wields considerable power. He names committee chairmen, hires staff members and assigns office space, among many other duties.
"People in a democracy are entitled to more than a poker game in their elections," said Mrs. Cole.
State Election Commissioner Louis Mete said, "The pressure is pretty high on the Board of Elections down there [in Gettsburg], they're pretty nervous about it, but they're straight-shooters. Now if this was in Philadelphia, it would be a different game. Someone would come up with a thousand votes someplace, I'm sure of that."