Flipped off the ballot: Coin toss settles Rosemount city council primary

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Democracy was in action at Rosemount City Hall Friday. And it came up tails.

After Tuesday night's primary ballot count showed two city council candidates with identical vote totals, a coin flip settled which of them would move on to the November election, Sun Thisweek reports.

The outcome was a victory for Alba Nowlin (seen at right). But the candidate who had heads, Jamal Abdulahi, has five days to request a recount of the primary result.

Two seats on the city council are up for election in November, meaning the top four finishers in the primary would move on. Nowlin and Abdulahi finished tied for fourth in the results that council members certified Friday morning.

Dakota County's manager of elections told the Pioneer Press this week that Minnesota law calls for breaking a tie by using a random method.

Rosemount Town Pages reports Mayor Bill Droste handled the coin flip and assigned the sides of the coin to the candidates in alphabetical order – heads to Abdulahi, tails to Nowlin. Town Pages says Droste let the coin fall to the floor, both candidates saw that it landed tails up, and Abdulahi shook Nowlin's hand, Town Pages says.

Abdulahi had no comment for the newspaper on whether he would seek a recount, which would be paid for with city funds.

Coin flips

A political campaign decided by a coin flip?

"It's not as rare as you might think," elections manager Andy Lokken told the Pioneer Press.

Since the state law says a tie vote shall be settled "by lot," Rosemount could have opted to draw a name from a hat or cards from a deck. But the coin is an experienced arbiter of tied political contests.

A couple of years ago an article in the Atlantic listed nine states where ties were settled by coins (Minnesota was already on the that list). South Dakota and Arizona had used cards and Virginia went with the hat, the magazine says.

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