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'Draw!' Settles an Election Tie in Nevada

November 24, 2002|Joe Cavaretta | Associated Press Writer

GOLDFIELD, Nev. — A deadlocked election ended Old West-style, with a draw of the cards in this virtual ghost town.

Republican Dolores "Dee" Honeycutt and Democrat R.J. Gillum, who tied 107-107 for an open seat on the Esmeralda County Commission, each pulled a jack, but Gillum's spade beat Honeycutt's diamond.

"Unbelievable," Gillum said. "Only in Goldfield."

He hugged his wife, Rita, as Honeycutt brushed away a tear.

The showdown in Goldfield's ornate courtroom recalled the town's glory years a century ago, when it was a booming mining center of 20,000 people.

Today, the entire county has about 1,000 residents, about one for every three square miles.

About 100 people were on hand Friday for the card draw -- nearly half the number of voters who cast ballots Nov. 5.

County Clerk-Treasurer Kelly Jo Eagan shuffled the deck, then fanned them out dealer style.

The rules: High card wins, but in case of a tie, spades are highest and clubs lowest.

In Nevada, the Legislature decides statewide or multiple-county general elections that end in a tie. All others are determined by luck.

"What you've got is Nevada political poker," state archivist Guy Louis Rocha said.

Rocha knew of two other races decided by chance: a 1972 election in Gabbs that ended with a coin toss, and a Eureka County Commission primary settled by drawing cards in 1982. The Eureka County candidates back then both drew eights, forcing a second draw because no one had thought to specify which suit would prevail.

Rocha had coached Dist. Atty. Patty Cafferata to decide the draw by suit on the chance that history repeated itself.

"What do you think are the chances of that happening again?" Cafferata had asked rhetorically on Friday.

Gillum not only won the election, he saved some money. The Nov. 5 tally was 107-105 for Honeycutt. Gillum paid about $300 for the recount, which turned up two more votes for him, producing the tie and the showdown. Because the results changed, he'll get a refund.

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