By: Cody Brandon

“A tie is like kissing your sister” – the famous phrase widely attributed to Navy football coach Eddie Erdelatz – is emblematic of the American competitive spirit. On my way home from Christmas vacation I scanned through AM radio stations broadcasting in the mountains of western Virginia to listen to the Oklahoma-Georgia College Football Playoff game that refused to end in a tie. The NFL has created a series of 12 tie-breaking procedures that end in a coin toss to determine the winner of a division. One of the most exhilarating legal practices in the NHL is the shootout to break a tie, topped perhaps only by the illegal act of dropping one’s gloves. The Constitution even provides a tie-breaking procedure for the Presidential election in the Twelfth Amendment.

The fact of the matter is that America hates ties. So much so, in fact, that the balance of the Virginia House of Delegates may be decided by drawing a name from a bowl. In light of the country’s general disdain for ties, and the fact that they happen more often than people think, I wondered how states besides Virginia break their ties. Below is a list of tie-breaking procedures by state that explains how the others around the country deal with this issue.

The following procedures may only apply to some, and not all, elections in a given state. So consult an attorney before you leave your election to a coin toss or a hand of poker.

Alabama: By vote of the legislature for executive offices; and by lot for other elections

Alaska: By lot

Arizona: By lot

Arkansas: By vote of the legislature for executive offices; and by runoff for other elections

California: By lot, unless locality has adopted runoff provision

Colorado: By lot

Connecticut: By runoff

Delaware: By appointment of the Governor for county offices; By runoff in municipal elections

Florida: By lot

Georgia: By runoff

Hawaii: By a complicated formula of election rate points

Idaho: Coin toss

Illinois: By lot

Indiana: By special election

Iowa: By drawing from a bowl

Kansas: By lot

Kentucky: By lot

Louisiana: By drawing at the state capitol

Maine: By lot if in a primary; by runoff in most other elections; Negative vote in referendums

Maryland: The Governor must appoint a replacement

Massachusetts: By special election

Michigan: By drawing by the candidates of two slips, one marked “ELECTED,” the other “NOT ELECTED”

Minnesota: By lot

Mississippi: By fair and public drawing

Missouri: By vote of the legislature for statewide elections; by special election for others

Montana: By lot in primary, varying processes in general elections including appointment by Governor

Nebraska: By lot for most elections

Nevada: By vote of the legislature or by lot depending on the office, including one race decided by a card game

New Hampshire: By runoff for local elections

New Jersey: By vote of the legislature in gubernatorial elections; by runoff in local elections

New Mexico: By lot, method of lot determined by statutorily assembled committee

New York: By runoff

North Carolina: In large elections, by new election; but in small, by method of random selection

North Dakota: By drawing in at least some elections

Ohio: By lot

Oklahoma: Draw from a bowl

Oregon: By dice roll in some city elections

Pennsylvania: By lot

Rhode Island: By special election

South Carolina: Governor elected by vote of the legislature; special writ of election issued for legislative races

South Dakota: By drawing

Tennessee: By the State Election Commission, except in any one of numerous exceptions

Texas: By runoff

Utah: By lot

Vermont: By runoff election

Virginia: We should all know this one by now

Washington: By lot

West Virginia: By choice of the governor or board of canvassers, depending on the office

Wisconsin: By lot

Wyoming: By lot



If you notice an error in the procedure in your state, let us know at<>

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