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Republican Del. David Yancey and his Democrat challenger Shelly Simonds attend a "take your legislator to school day" on Nov. 28 at Heritage High School in Newport News, Virginia. Photo by Julia Rendleman for The Washington Post via Getty Images

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.

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