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D&D: Guess I’ll Spend All Day Thinking About How An Election Came Down To A D20

3 Minute Read
Nov 3 2020

As voters line up at the polls to cast their ballots, we take a look back at the time that an election was decided by a a natural 20.

I’m not saying every election should be decided by the roll of a d20, but if you ever wanted an argument for why every vote matters let me tell you the harrowing tale of how a California county’s politics hinged on the roll of a twenty-sided die.

You might be wondering how we got here…

Art imitates life, they say. And, if you accept that games are art (and if pressing f to pay respects has taught me anything it’s that they are), then it stands to reason that games also imitate life. At least that’s what Aristotle would have you think.

Oscar Wilde, on the other hand, would tell you Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life“. And it’s true. Sometimes in life, the best thing you can do is hope to roll a crit–as happened back in Contra Costa, CA in 2018, when a hotly contested local election came down to which candidate could roll highest.

The scene for our anti-mimesis vignette is a multi-county special district, comprising parts of Alameda, Contra Costa, and San Joaquin Counties across 47 miles and 30,000 acres. At sake? The District 1 seat on the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District which provides everyone in that district with water. As their slogan says: We Deliver Water.

I dare you to guess how long it took or how much it cost a marketing firm to come up with that slogan

According to KPIX CBS SF Bay Area, the election was poppin’. Voter turnout hit an unprecedented high for this election, with 110 of the special district’s 147 registered voters turning out to vote. The incumbent and challenger each received 51 votes, because you can always count on at least eight voters or so to throw away their votes on a third-party candidate. But this deadlocked election meant that the law had to get involved.

Not in a metaphorical sense, where the police had to be called in. No, they had to turn to California state law, which mandates that a tie must be decided by lot–a random contest which, as you’ll see in the video below, made the office get a little creative.

I just want to take a second to acknowledge that, there’s no way someone “just happened to have” a d20 lying around. You don’t pick one of those up randomly–you’re either playing D&D or you’re maybe hoping to squeeze in a quick match of Magic: the Gathering. And since the die in question doesn’t look to be a spin-down, one can only assume that we’ve seen the local office game of D&D grasp the reins of real-world politics.


As the rest of the story goes, both candidates rolled off 3 times, with the candidate with the higher total winning the election, and the seat on the Irrigation Board. The scores were fairly close right up until the end, when the incumbent rolled a natural 20…

…and sealed the election. If that’s how one election can be decided… well. Anyway. How about those rolls? The lowest one was a 13! Someone should track down that die and use it to win their next campaign.

At any rate, take care adventurers, you never know when being able to roll a 20 will come in handy.

Seriously though, register to vote, and then vote. Every election. Every time. Now we have proof that one vote is equal to a natural 20.


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