ALABAMA (WKRG) — If the upcoming Iron Bowl can begin with a coin toss, why can’t Alabama elections end with one? According to a law passed earlier in 2022, that’s exactly how some election ties in Alabama can be decided.

If there is a tie at the end of an election in the state of Alabama, “it shall be decided by lot by the judge of probate of the county in the presence of the candidates,” according to the Alabama Secretary of State website.

This means that the probate judge gets to choose which “lot” will decide the election. In the 2018 Clay County Sheriff election in Alabama, the race was decided by a coin toss.

Other states also decide tied elections by lot. A 2014 Dora City Council election in Florida was decided by a city clerk drawing a name out of a hat.

In a 2014 Neptune Beach City Council in Florida, a tiebreaker went to complicated lengths of randomness. One of two candidates’ names was drawn from a hat. That “winner” then got to call heads or tails during a coin toss. The “winner” of that then chose whether to go first or second in a random drawing of ping pong balls — and the candidate whose ping pong ball had the highest number on it got to take a seat on the City Council.

Section 17-12-13 of Alabama law sets out the rule for tie elections in the Yellowhammer State.

In all elections where there is a tie between the two highest candidates for the same office, for all county or precinct offices, it shall be decided by lot by the judge of probate of the county in the presence of the candidates; and in the case of the office of circuit judge, senator, representative, or any state officer not otherwise provided for, the Secretary of State shall, in the presence of the Governor, and such other electors as may choose to be present, decide the tie by lot.

Alabama Secretary of State Legislature

Prior to April 2022, Alabama law called for runoff elections for many tied races. But HB144, passed in April by the Alabama legislature, removed the runoff requirement for elections in which only two candidates are seeking an office and vote ends in a tie.

Under the law AL HB144, “If the municipal governing body fails to break the tie, the elected candidate shall be decided by lot by the judge of probate of the county where the city or town hall.” If the probate judge “openly participated in the promotion of candidates” who are part of the tied election, they are disqualified from overseeing the random game. In this case, the presiding circuit court judge within the city or town hall will replace them and “break the tie by lot”.

Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming all have similar legislation.