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March 14, 2013

Coin tosses determine election winners

Elections ending in dead heat are determined by coin toss

Heads you win, tails you lose.

Just ask new Sandown treasurer Erica Olsen and James Peck, Plaistow’s newest library trustee.

Both ended up in a dead heat after the ballots were counted — and counted again — Tuesday night.

In Sandown, Olsen and Bruce Cleveland each received 232 votes. Peck was all tied up with Jane Query at 225 votes apiece in a race for Plaistow library trustee.

Yesterday, both races came down to the luck of the draw.

It was only fitting that the race for Sandown treasurer was decided by a coin toss.

As she is allowed under state law, Town Clerk Michelle Short decided a coin toss would break the tie.

But first, Olsen and Cleveland had to draw straws to see who got to call it. Olsen won that and called heads. Short flipped the gold coin and Olsen was named treasurer.

New Hampshire RSA 669:36 states that in case of a tie “the winner shall be determined by lot by the town clerk in the presence of the candidates who are tied.”

“It has to be fair and everyone has to have an equal chance to win,” Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan said. “It couldn’t have been a physical activity, it had to be something random.”

Short joked the race could have been determined in any number of ways.

“We could have had them make fire or something,” Short said.

Plaistow Town Clerk Maryellen Pelletier opted to flip a coin, too. She used a quarter from the cash drawer to determine whether Peck or Jane Query, tied with 225 votes apiece, would join the library trustees.

“We weren’t sure exactly how it was to be handled,” Pelletier said. “We called the secretary of state’s office just to be sure.”

Heads took it again and Peck won.

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