How would Indiana break an election tie?

Have you ever kept something — a bold prediction, a funny comment, a great idea — to yourself, only to regret it later when it comes true, they use the joke on SNL, or someone else invents it?

That’s how we feel now after last night’s result in Iowa, where a tie vote in one precinct led to a coin flip to determine whether Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton was the winner.

You see, we wrote a blog post ten days ago that outlines how Indiana breaks an election night tie. We decided to hold it, because it wasn’t BIG NEWS. And now, today, it’s just another “after-the-fact” post instead of a prescient piece.

These things usually don’t happen on such a large stage. They only happened in Iowa because Iowa is insane.

Instead of a primary in Iowa, they run a caucus. Instead of a traditional secret ballot, Democrats in Iowa have you stand with a group of people who agree with you (kind of like high school). Then, instead of counting the popular vote, Iowa Democrats determine the winner based on delegates.

So, when all that failed to determine the outcome in at least one six precincts, they tossed a coin.

Hey, the least they could’ve done was play by college rules and given Bernie Sanders a chance to score from his 25 yard line.

That scenario was unique, but breaking an election tie with a coin toss is not.

Thirty-five states allow election ties to be decided by a game of chance, usually drawing lots or a coin toss.

Just this past election, there was a tie in a state representative race in Mississippi. And it wasn’t just any tie. The result of that race ultimately determined whether or not Mississippi Republicans would have a supermajority.

How did they decide that one? They drew straws.

THEY DREW STRAWS! That’s not how you pick a representative government! That’s how you split up in the Clue movie.  giphy

It’s how the apostles replace Judas Iscariot in the Book of Acts!

It’s what we did before Rock Paper Scissors was invented.

But it gets worse.

In some states, it can be any game of chance. In Bradenton Beach Florida last year, the mayoral race in November was decided by high card.  In a New Mexico city in 1988, they tossed a coin to determine which mayoral candidate chose the game of chance. Incumbent James Farrington won the coin toss and opted to play a single hand of poker. He won with an ace-high flush.

Are you kidding? I’ve heard of elections coming down to turnout, but never one coming down to the turn card.

In Indiana, we aren’t nearly as fun.

If there’s a tie for Governor and Lt. Governor, the General Assembly votes.

If there’s a tie for a federal office (President of Congress), a non-gubernatorial state office, or a legislative race, there’s a special election.

If it’s a local race, the local fiscal body decides.

And if it’s a public question — like a constitutional amendment or a tax referendum — a tie causes the question to fail.

It almost happened last November. In Jasper, the mayor’s race was a tie after all the votes were tallied, but the recount sorted things out. One sticky ballot was found stuck to the bottom of a pig, and incumbent Terry Seitz remained in office.

For once, Indiana is among a minority of states who actually seem to have a logical system. I don’t care who you are, you have to acknowledge that a game of chance is not a sensible way to decide an election.

But it would be a lot of fun.


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