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Coin toss breaks tie in North Carolina city’s mayoral election



When officials in Monroe, N.C., finished tallying the votes Friday from this month’s election for mayor, they displayed the results on a monitor. Robert Burns had received 970 votes — but so had Bob Yanacsek, one of his opponents.

Under state law, the winner would be decided by a “method of random selection.”

An elections official grabbed a silver dollar from his office to break the tie. When he returned to a conference room in the county board of elections’ building, Yanacsek called heads.

The coin struck a desk before dropping to the carpet and rolling a few feet on its side across the room. When it stopped next to a spectator’s coffee cup a few seconds later, the coin landed on tails.

Burns lifted his arms and grinned as his family and friends cheered. The 40-year-old will be Monroe’s mayor for the next two years.

“It felt like the longest roll ever,” Burns told The Washington Post on Monday after a weekend of celebrating.


Yanacsek, meanwhile, watched Burns hug his supporters before the two candidates shook hands.

“We didn’t lose the election,” Yanacsek, 53, said Monday. “We lost the coin toss.”

It’s not the first time an election has been decided by the flip of a coin. Coin tosses have also broken ties in Idaho and Kentucky. Other election officials have resorted to rolling dice or pulling a name out of a film canister to declare a victory.

In North Carolina, Kristin Jacumin said that Friday was the first tie she witnessed since she became the director of the Union County Board of Elections in 2015. She considered drawing a name out of a hat or pulling straws but said a coin flip was the most transparent method.

“It was quite a surprise to us,” Jacumin said about resorting to a tiebreaker.

Burns said he had considered running for office for years, but he was busy working at his audio-video company and raising six children.

“I was always told growing up I was going to be one of three things: I was going to be a preacher, a lawyer or a politician,” Burns said. “And they’re all one and the same nowadays.”


He decided in June to run for mayor, hoping to improve the economy, lower taxes and unite a city divided by political disputes.

Yanacsek, a retired police officer, was the runner-up in Monroe’s 2021 mayoral election after falling short by 504 votes. He ran again in hopes of lowering crime, improving animal welfare and giving citizens more power by placing them on city committees.

Yanacsek was ahead of Burns by one vote after Election Day on Nov. 7, but officials were still counting mail-in and provisional ballots that were postmarked by that date. Candidates were told the final count would be completed by Friday.

When Burns asked in the following weeks how a tie would be broken, he said he thought a county official was joking when they explained that it would be decided by random selection — a state law that goes into effect when 5,000 or fewer ballots are cast. In Monroe, which has a population of about 35,000, just 3,551 people voted, Jacumin said.

On Friday, Burns and Yanacsek arrived at the board of elections office with family members, friends and supporters. They waited in a conference room while officials finished counting the ballots. About 30 minutes later, officials displayed the results on a TV screen — a tie.

Spectators gasped, Burns said. He and Yanacsek looked at each other, shook their heads and laughed.

“You could cut the tension with a knife,” Burns said.


Both candidates waived their rights to a recount, telling The Post they believed county officials had recorded the ballots correctly. Burns said he asked Yanacsek to call heads or tails, as he had been leading the votes before Friday. Yanacsek said he picked heads on a whim, but he could only shrug after he saw the coin land on tails.

“The sad part is we have all the supporters that back me,” Yanacsek said. “And we were looking to really make some good changes and things. And I felt sorry for them more than for me because it basically came down to me calling heads or tails.”

After winning the coin toss, Burns said he interviewed with a local TV station, ate lunch with his supporters and met with the city’s current mayor, Marion Holloway, who didn’t seek reelection.

Yanacsek, who plans to run for mayor again in the future, thanked his followers in a Facebook video Friday afternoon. He said he’ll continue attending city council meetings to voice his thoughts.

Burns, meanwhile, has started making plans for when he’s inaugurated Dec. 12.

“A lot of [politicians] tend to, or at least seem to, forget what the actual concerns are of the citizens,” Burns said. “And that’s what’s important. That’s what gets you elected.”

In North Carolina, a coin flip can help do that, too.


Source: Washington Post

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