A Piece Of Metal Could Decide A Tied Virginia House Race

A thin chip of copper and nickel could decide the outcome of a key Virginia House race.

That's right. The flip of a quarter or maybe even picking a name out of a hat or drawing straws will determine if Democrat Shelly Simonds or Republican incumbent David Yancey wins a Virginia House of Delegates seat.

The pair had been separated by one vote after a recount Tuesday gave Simonds the thinnest of electoral margins—but a three-judge panel on Wednesday decided to count one discarded ballot in favor of Yancey, creating a tie. A Democratic win would have robbed the GOP of control of the Virginia's House for the first time in two decades.

So now, it's up to chance; under Virginia law, a tie is broken by lot — usually a coin toss, but also possibly by drawing a name out of a glass bowl, The Washington Post reported. No date has been set.

Electing a lawmaker by the toss of a coin or drawing a name out of a hat may seem strange and extraordinary, but the method has been used in New York, Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio, Missouri, Washington, Florida, Minnesota and New Hampshire to break ties. Most recently, in the 2016 caucuses, six Iowa precincts where settled with a coin toss, with Hillary Clinton beating rival Bernie Sanders in all six, the BBC reported.

Card games have been used in South Dakota and Arizona. Virginia in the past has picked a winner from a hat, The Atlantic reported.

And a Cave Creek, Ariz. town council election in 2009 was decided when one candidate drew a six of hearts and another drew a king of hearts after a town judge shuffled a standard deck six times.

"It's a hell of a way to win—or lose—an election," Thomas McGuire, who lost, told the New York Times.

The practice of flipping a coin to settle an election apparently dates back to ancient Athens. And it sure beats how Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr settled their famous dispute.