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This is how Democrats just broke a tie between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in Iowa

It's a 50–50 shot.


Patrick Howell O'Neill


Posted on Feb 2, 2016   Updated on May 27, 2021, 7:00 am CDT

As the Iowa caucuses kick off the 2016 presidential race, everyone keeps talking about “democracy in action.”

Well, here it is:

When Des Moines Democrats find a tie—as they did at about 8:15pm CT on Monday night—they break it the same way we did in junior high school: A coin toss on a gymnasium floor, exactly as the Founding Fathers foresaw. 

With former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders in a dead heat, some have reported that the coin toss could have tipped Iowa in the independent Vermont senators’ direction. That is not, however, the situation—even if the confusing caucus process made it seem that way.

Still, Clinton won. Sanders lost. Democracy, everybody.

Update: 11:56pm CT, Feb. 1: Added additional contextual information about the consequences of the coin toss.

Illustration by Max Fleishman 

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*First Published: Feb 2, 2016, 12:15 am CST