The luck of the draw was in Democratic candidate Blaine Eaton’s favor Friday afternoon, after a Mississippi House race tiebreaker was decided when he pulled a long green straw from a box. Eaton, the incumbent candidate who has served in the House for nearly two decades, had tied with Republican challenger Mark Tullos for the District 79 seat with 4,589 votes each.
The win for Eaton staved off a three-fifths Republican supermajority in Mississippi’s House, which would have given the Republicans the ability to pass revenue-related bills. Tullos filed an appeal to the tiebreaker, which was presided over Friday by Republican Gov. Phil Bryant. Tullos had already questioned before the tiebreaker occurred whether the votes were counted fairly, and said he would challenge the results if he lost.
Eaton had not said he would challenge the tiebreaker if the results swung in Tullos’ favor, but he condemned the practice of straw-drawing both before and after his win. He said he hoped to co-author a bill that would change the chance-based elections tiebreaking law.
“It’s wrong -- philosophically, morally,” he said prior to the drawing. “It’s archaic, it’s medieval and it’s wrong. We need a new election.”
Mississippi is one of 24 states that have laws declaring a tied legislative election to be decided by either drawing straws or flipping a coin, the National Conference of State Legislatures said, the Associated Press reported.
Other chance-based tiebreakers have occurred in recent years, such as in Alaska in 2006, when candidates in a Democratic primary for a Statehouse seat broke a tie by flipping a coin. Senate Minority Whip William Payne, a Republican from Albuquerque, New Mexico, also won a primary race by a coin toss in 1996.