Confusion, absurdity over coin toss in St. Louis redistricting process

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ST. LOUIS-The process of creating new ward boundaries for the city of St. Louis Board of Aldermen and the numbers for them was taken to the doorstep of final approval by city lawmakers Wednesday, but not without a process that was described as comical and absurd.

All because of a coin toss over how to number what will be the city’s 14 wards when the process is over. Aldermen in odd-numbered wards would need to run again in two years.

The coin toss, by Sharita Rogers, the assistant clerk for the board of Aldermen, and witnessed by Ward 10 alderman Joseph Vollmer, was done over a Zoom as meetings remain virtual due to COVID-19 protocols.

The toss came up heads, but was difficult to see. While some aldermen chimed in about their ability to see it or not, a second flip took place with a marked coin, but could not be validated because it wasn’t shown on camera.

23rd ward alderman Joseph Vaccaro made a motion to move to a best 2 out of 3. Ward 1 Alderman Sharon Tyus saw “heads” the first time, but didn’t want the pressure of what really happened to be placed on the clerk, so she supported a re-toss.

“I think this is a bit absurd. We’re calling into controversy the result of a coin toss…it’s insane to me, said Ward 24 Alderman Bret Narayan. “Do people really have that little faith in the people in the room?

“I think we’re just adding more controversy to this process if we start reflipping and doing 2 of 3 coin tosses,” said 7th ward Alderman Jack Coatar. “I think we stick with our initial toss. I haven’t even done the math to realize if that would mean the ward I live in is odd or even. I’m so confused…it was clearly a head, let’s assign numbers and move on.

Vaccaro’s motion for 2 out of 3 tosses failed, meaning the original “heads” toss was the only one that counted. Here’s what it means for the wards themselves, pending final board approval on Friday and Mayor Tishaura Jones’ signature.

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