The Democratic Caucus in Iowa Is So Close That Precincts Are Resorting to a Literal Coin Toss

SOURCEThink Progress

Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were still locked in a dead tie for the Iowa caucus at midnight. The race was so close that some precincts apparently pulled out a rare Iowa caucus quirk to call a winner: the coin flip.

At least two precincts, one in Des Moines and one in Davenport, decided to resolve the caucus with a coin toss when their attendees were deadlocked. Hillary Clinton won both.

Other precincts may also have resorted to the coin toss:

Caucusgoers weren’t simply frustrated or inspired to decide the results with a coin toss. The caucus rules actually call for a coin toss or picking a name out of a hat in the event of a tie. Democratic Party officials reportedly recommended the coin toss to one deadlocked caucus in Ames Monday night that called the official hotline for help.

The coin toss is one of many oddities of the Iowa caucuses. Though initial reports noted turnout was up from past years, the caucuses have some anti-democratic fixtures. Many working Iowans cannot caucus because they can’t get out of work in time for the mandatory 7 p.m. deadline. The Democratic caucus also weights certain precincts’ results differently based on their past voting records.


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Aviva Shen is Senior Editor of ThinkProgress. Aviva's work has appeared in outlets including Smithsonian Magazine, Salon, and New York Magazine. She also worked for the Slate Political Gabfest, a weekly politics podcast from Slate Magazine. Previously, she was part of the new media team in Ohio for the 2008 Obama campaign. Aviva received a B.A. in English and Writing from Barnard College.