Victory in the bag for new county commissioner as lucky draw settles tie vote

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The candidates campaigned hard through the election season. Then the Cook County auditor thought hard about the fairest way to randomly break the tie vote.

On Monday the winner of the District 1 seat on the county board of commissioners was finally settled when Frank Moe pulled a lucky red game piece out of a cloth bag custom-made for the occasion, the Star Tribune reports. His opponent, Kristin DeArruda Wharton, was left with the blue piece signifying a runner-up finish.

The results of last week's election showed each candidate received 246 votes as they vied to represent the northeasternmost part of Minnesota.

After the outcome was settled by Monday's random drawing at the courthouse in Grand Marais, a subsequent recount requested by Wharton confirmed the tie, MPR News reports.

Game pieces rather than Scrabble tiles

Under Minnesota law, when elections end in a tie the winner is to be chosen "by lot."

That gives cities and counties leeway to chose whatever random method they prefer, such as flipping a coin, pulling a name from a hat, or drawing cards from a deck. An August primary race among city council candidates in Rosemount was the state's most recent example of a tie being randomly settled – in that case by a coin flip.

County Auditor Braidy Powers tells the Star Tribune he worried a coin toss might go awry if he got nervous and didn't like the idea of tracking a rolling coin into a corner to see how it landed. He first planned on having the candidates pull Scrabble tiles from a bag – whoever pulls a Z wins – but was advised that it's possible to discern a letter by touch, the Star Tribune says.

Ultimately Powers found two identical red and blue pieces from a board game at home and brought them to the courthouse to be pulled from a bag a staff member had hand-sewn for the occasion, the newspaper reports.

The Cook County News Herald notes that another of the county board races on last week's ballot was decided by a margin of just five votes. But the paper says that one did not meet the criteria for a recount at county expense, as the District 1 race did.

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