Rogelio V. Solis / AP Photo

Mississippi settles state legislative race by drawing straws

Democrat Bo Eaton pulled the the bigger green straw from a bag, denying the state GOP a supermajority

A Democrat has won an election tiebreaker in Mississippi by drawing a big green straw from a bag.

Bo Eaton, a 20-year incumbent in the state House of Representatives, defeated Republican challenger Mark Tullos in the drawing Friday in the governor's office.

Eaton, a farmer from Taylorsville, said before the drawing that he would accept the result. Tullos, an attorney from Raleigh, said he would accept it only if he won.

Tullos said if he lost, he intended to ask the state House of Representatives to seat him as the winner because he questions whether votes were counted fairly.

Eaton's win blocks the GOP from having a supermajority in the House, which would have among other things allowed Republicans to make decisions about taxes without seeking help from Democrats. Republicans already have a supermajority in the 52-member state Senate, and Gov. Phil Bryant is Republican.

Prior to the drawing of straws, certified results in the election showed each candidate received 4,589 votes in the district in Smith and Jasper counties in south central Mississippi, a part of the state known for oil wells and watermelon fields.

The National Conference of State Legislatures says 24 states have laws that say a tied legislative election is decided by drawing straws or flipping a coin.

In Alaska in 2006, a coin flip broke the tie in a Democratic primary for a state House seat. An Alaska Mint medallion was used, with a walrus on the "heads" side and the State of Alaska seal — the fancy crest on paper, not the kind of seal that swims — on the "tails" side. Incumbent Rep. Carl Moses called "heads." He lost the flip, and the primary, to challenger Bryce Edgmon, who is still in the House today.

In New Mexico, the current Senate minority whip, Republican William Payne of Albuquerque, won his first primary with a coin toss in 1996.

Connecticut rewrote its law in 2007 to eliminate the use of chance, such as a coin toss, to break a tie in a legislative primary. The change came a year after a coin toss decided the winner of a Democratic primary for a state House seat.

A game of chance can be used to decide other types of elections, as well. In a portion of Daviess County, Kentucky, in 2012, a coin toss broke a 21-21 tie in a local liquor election. The alcohol opponents won, and Graham Precinct remained dry.

The Associated Press

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