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Feeling lucky? Coin tosses and other Election Day tie breakers

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A US Mint worker holds new $1 coins at Grand Central Station in New York February 15, 2007.Reuters

After an early political battle, New Mexico Democrats Kenneth Howard Jr. and Robert Baca, were tied in their June 3 primary to be the next McKinley County magistrate judge.

They each had 2,879 votes.

But instead of a pricey runoff, their political fate was sealed by a simple coin toss.

Howard Jr. made the lucky call – heads – winning a four-year term as the newest magistrate judge for McKinley County.

After all, it’s state law.

While Baca says he was disappointed he came out on the losing side, he’s relieved that both candidates finally know who won.

Since 1980, New Mexico has settled the election score by coin toss three times – the other two were for state legislature seats.

The state is one of 35 across the country, including Idaho, that determines tied elections by a coin toss or other means of luck.

In Oklahoma, state law requires the names of the candidates in question to be written down on a piece of paper and pulled out from a container Bingo-style by the Secretary of the State Election Board.

In North Carolina,   if fewer than 5,000 people voted, lots will be cast. A “game by lot” means the winner will be decided by cards, straws or as in New Mexico and Idaho, a coin toss.

In Kentucky, a tie can be broken “by lot.” The state constitution, though, expressly forbids a duel.

So just how common is a tie vote?

According to The Atlantic, it happens pretty frequently on the local level - a coin has decided primary elections in Illinois, Alaska and New Mexico – but almost non-existent on a national level.