Scrabble tile to decide Cook County election winner after dead heat


The game of Scrabble will decide an election result in northeastern Minnesota.

Frank Moe and Kristin DeArrude Wharton will pick Scrabble tiles from a bag on Monday, and the one who picks out a 'Z' will be named the 1st District commissioner in Cook County, Northland News Center reports.

It is written into Minnesota statute that a winner in the event of a tie will be decided by drawing lots. The Cook County pair tied at 246 votes each in Tuesday's elections, according to the Duluth News Tribune.

Moe told the News Tribune there was little to distinguish himself from his opponent, saying there was "no single issue that separated them" but said they had "nuanced differences," which may explain the difficulty local voters had in picking a winner.

Moe is a former two-termer in the Minnesota House of Representatives and wrote a book, 'Sled Dogs to Saint Paul,' about his love for dog mushing, according to the Star Tribune.

Wharton meanwhile, describes herself to the Duluth News Tribune as a 4th generation North Shore "community leader, nurse, mom and farmer," who has been actively involved with numerous local boards.

Under state rules, the person who draws the "A" tile has the right to demand an immediate recount of Tuesday's votes.

Drawing lots across the world

While deciding an election by drawing lots is not an everyday occurrence, there have been notable occasions where voters have been unable to choose between candidates, with a coin flip generally the way ties are decided.

Just three months ago, a primary ballot to select potential city council candidates in Rosemount had to be settled via a coin flip won by Alba Nowlin, who advanced to Tuesday's city council elections.

But her luck didn't continue – she came last out of the four candidates standing for two seats on the council, the Pioneer Press reports.

Deciding electoral races by drawing lots is part of election law in 35 states, the Washington Post notes, though different states have different stipulations. Idaho, for example, demands a coin toss, while Oklahoma pulls names from a container.

If one tied election is rare enough, two tied races in the same county stretches the boundaries of believability.

But that's what happened in Lincoln County, Kentucky, on Tuesday when two separate races finished level, and both will also be settled by a coin flip next week, WUKY reports.

Another race in New Jersey will also result in a coin toss, according to the South Jersey Times, while a flip decided a mayoral race in a small town in the Peruvian Andes last month, the Journal Advocate reports.

What to choose in the event of a coin toss

Conventional wisdom holds that flipping a coin offers a 50/50 chance of the person calling a side being correct, right?

But a study by a Stanford math professor has suggested that a variable may actually make the probability 51/49 - that variable being which side is facing up when the coin is flipped.

Persi Diaconis came to the conclusion that the side facing up when the coin is flipped landed face up 51 times out of 100, the Mail Online reports.

Diaconis and his team also conducted research that concluded that the probability of a spinning penny landing on tails is 80/20, because the heads side is heavier than the tails, according to the Smithsonian Magazine.

Note for election officials: Make sure someone calls it before the coin is flipped...

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