Mississippi republicans literally drew straws to break an election tie

22 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

By luck of the ‘straw’, Democrat wins Mississippi House race.

In Mississippi on Friday, luck smiled on a Democratic state representative, Blaine Eaton II, who had been forced, by state law, to draw straws for his seat after his race for re-election ended in a tie.To break a tie from a Nov. 3 state House election, 20-year Democratic incumbent Bo Eaton and Republican challenger Mark Tullos met in the governor’s crowded conference room on the 19th floor of a state office building to carry out the archaic procedure prescribed in state law — they drew straws. Eaton, listed first on the ballot, reached into a red canvas bag and pulled out one of two silver-plated business card boxes engraved with the word ‘‘Mississippi.’’ Tullos pulled out the other padded box, and the two men opened them.

And with that, a mathematically improbable tie for the house district 79 seat – each candidate had received exactly 4,589 votes – had been broken, but not by the voters. But every once in a while, the fate of governments is determined by a considerably less eminent character, one usually found lurking in back-alley craps games and on the Las Vegas Strip: Lady Luck. With his victory, Eaton blocks the GOP from having a supermajority in the House, a three-fifths margin that would have allowed Republicans, in theory, to make multimillion-dollar decisions about taxes without seeking help from Democrats. ‘‘There’s always happiness in a good crop year,’’ Eaton, a farmer from Taylorsville, said after winning. He had cited concerns about the way a county election board handled nine paper “affidavit ballots” filed by voters who believed their names were erroneously left off the voter rolls. Tullos said if he lost, he intended to ask the state House of Representatives to seat him as the winner because he questions whether votes were counted fairly.

He chuckled when he was asked if he had a strategy for choosing a box from the bag. ‘‘I’m a Southern Baptist, but I have a little bit of Presbyterian — about a quarter’s worth of Presbyterian,’’ Eaton said in his slow drawl. ‘‘So whatever will be, will be.’’ Certified returns show each candidate received 4,589 votes in the district in south central Mississippi, a part of the state known for oil wells and watermelon fields. The National Conference of State Legislatures says 24 states have laws that say a tied legislative election is decided by drawing straws or flipping a coin. Democrats in the current term have blocked Republicans’ efforts to pass hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of tax cuts, arguing instead that Mississippi needs to put more money into chronically underfunded schools. An Alaska Mint medallion was used, with a walrus on the “heads” side and the State of Alaska seal — the fancy crest on paper, not the kind of seal that swims — on the “tails” side.

Republicans, who also control the state Senate and governor’s mansion, say the cuts, including a proposal to phase out the state’s corporate franchise tax, will jump-start the economy and promote job growth. We need a new election.” The mere fact that the election came to this is one of a long string of disappointments for Southern Democrats, who once ran the region as a virtual one-party zone but whose power has collapsed in recent years. Eaton, a gregarious and proudly homespun man who raises cattle and grows soybeans — and bears some resemblance to a young Jimmy Carter — met a reporter Wednesday morning at the Huddle House in his hometown, Taylorsville, and tried to make light of the forces of history, and perhaps fate, that appear to be arrayed against him. “If I lose the coin toss, it’s going to be kind of like that Hank Williams Jr. song, ‘Dinosaur,’” he said, and he recited a few lyrics: “I should’ve died a long time before,” he said. Associated Press writers Becky Bohrer in Juneau, Alaska; Susan Montoya Bryan in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Susan Haigh in Hartford, Connecticut; and Beth Campbell in Louisville, Kentucky, contributed to this report. The men know each other, and both are well known among the voters in District 79, which encompasses Smith County and part of Jasper County. “I told Bo’s wife when I qualified that she’d never hear a bad thing come out of my mouth about her, or her husband, or her family,” Tullos said.

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