New Mexico judge elected via lottery after tie; most states have similar laws


A judiciary race in New Mexico was decided by a coin flip after it finished in a dead tie. Although seemingly strange, the overwhelming majority of the United States has similar tiebreaker laws.

Kenneth Howard Jr. and Robert Baca, running for an uncontested judicial seat in McKinley County, N.M., both finished with 2,879 votes in the June 3 election. New Mexico state law mandates that electoral ties be determined by lottery, and on July 10, a local Democratic party official tossed a 50-cent piece to finalize the election.

Howard won the coin toss and, as there is no Republican challenger, the election.

Despite the statistical anomaly necessary for an electoral tie — on the federal level a tie has never occurred — according to the Washington Post, 35 states have laws requiring certain tied elections be determined by some form of lottery.

Some states require a coin toss, while others draw names from a hat; some have no specific instructions on how to handle the lottery.

Connecticut used to decide tied primaries by lottery until former Governor Jodi Rell signed legislation requiring a special election, saying at the time, “No candidate should have to worry that a tie would mean a coin-flip, and more importantly no voter should fear being disenfranchised.”