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Republican Del. David Yancey and his Democrat challenger Shelly Simonds attend a "take your legislator to school day" on N...

How do states name the winner in a tied election?

RICHMOND, Va. — When voters can’t pick a winner, sometimes lady luck has to step in.

Control of Virginia’s state House could be decided at random next week when election officials draw names to decide the winner in a tied state legislative race.

To settle the tie, the state elections board plans to print each candidate’s name on a separate piece of paper, place each paper into a separate film canister, place the canisters into a glass bowl or some other container and shake them up. The canister containing the winner’s name will be pulled out at random.

A look at how other tied elections have been settled:

  • A seat on the Esmeralda County Commission in Nevada was decided 15 years ago in Old-West style at an ornate courthouse of a once-bustling mining town. The county clerk-treasurer shuffled a deck and fanned the cards out on a table like a casino dealer.
  • Both candidates drew jacks, but the Democrat’s spade beat out the Republican’s diamond. The winner hugged his wife, while the loser wiped away a tear.
  • Two years ago in Mississippi, two House candidates broke a tie by reaching into a red canvas bag and pulling out a silver-plated business card boxes engraved with the state’s name. The winner drew the box with a longer straw in it.
  • This year in Manteo, North Carolina, settling an election to the town commission required two recounts, a drawing of straws and a coin toss.
  • When a city council candidate in Heyburn, Idaho, lost a coin toss after his November race, he called for a recount. Officials found one extra vote and he won, 113-112.
  • In Alaska in 2006, a coin flip broke the tie in a Democratic primary for a state House seat. The incumbent called “heads” and lost. Six years later, a candidate in an Ohio city council race called “tails” and lost.