Kentucky Settles Election Tie With A Coin Flip, And That’s Not Unusual

Democracy in Kentucky is as simple as heads or tails.

Quarters on a black background
George Becker / Pexels

Democracy in Kentucky is as simple as heads or tails.

Kentucky voters in Perry County were in a deadlock at the end of Tuesday when a referendum vote came to an even 155-155 tie. Voters went to the polls to determine, among other things, whether or not the sale of alcohol should be allowed in Buckhorn Lake State Park.

The lake is about 1,200 acres, and within what’s known as a “dry” precinct, about 50 miles from the Virginia border. Kentucky has several “dry” counties and cities where the sale of alcoholic beverages is prohibited.

With Tuesday’s vote ending in a perfect tie, Perry County chose to end the debate with a simple solution: a coin flip.

And while that sounds strange, it’s actually the third time a coin flip has determined the outcome of a Kentucky election this year, according to U.S. News and World Report.

Since the Perry County coin toss last Thursday, Kentucky has held yet another official coin flip election decision on Wednesday of this week. This coin toss decision was held to determine the winner of a City Council race in Crescent Springs, Kentucky.

Each candidate got exactly 79 votes.

“I said, ‘What? Are you sure?’ She said, ‘We’ve counted it a couple of times.’ I was shocked,” said Patrick Hackett, one of the write-in candidates who tied, according to WLWT5 CBS.

Sheriff Chuck Korzenborn brought in the sheriff’s coin, a special coin with a state seal on one side and the sheriff’s star on the other. This clearly isn’t their first rodeo.

Hackett filed for the city council post first, so he got to call his side. He picked the star, which is what the sheriff flipped.

And no, we are absolutely not making this up.

In fact, there are many states where tied elections are settled with a coin toss or a similar device. Some states literally draw straws, according to the Atlantic.

Coin flips have determined the outcomes of elections in Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Florida, New Hampshire, and New York — and that’s just in the past few years. Arizona and South Dakota have both used card games to settle election ties. And in one tied election in Virginia, the winner’s name was drawn from a hat.

The sheriff’s coin was used in Kenton Vale, Kentucky in 2012. By law, the two candidates were required to settle the tie — but the law prohibits them from doing so with a duel.

And since this is the accepted method, it’s not impossible that much bigger elections could be determined by a toss-up — literally by a coin tossed up into the air. Governors, city mayors, Senators, and Representatives…all could be determined by a special coin with a star on one side.

It’s very rare to see ties in statewide elections, but it’s happened. A study conducted in 2001 found that from 1898 to 1992, there were two statewide general elections that came down to ties. One was a 1978 Rhode Island state senate race. Rhode Island held a special election to determine the outcome.

In New Mexico in 1980, a state house race that was tied was determined with a coin toss. The 2001 study found this to be the highest level election to be decided with the flip of a coin, so far.