Tied Miss. House election to be decided by a long green straw, but result could be appealed

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JACKSON, Mississippi — A drawing of straws could decide the winner of a tied legislative race in Mississippi, and the outcome will determine whether Republicans reach a supermajority in the state House of Representatives.

The drawing is set for 1:30 p.m. Friday in Gov. Phil Bryant's office in the Sillers office building near the Capitol.

Certified results of the District 79 House race in Smith and Jasper counties show that Democratic Rep. Bo Eaton of Taylorsville and Republican challenger Mark Tullos of Raleigh each received 4,589 votes in the Nov. 3 general election.

State law says if a multicounty race is tied, the winner is determined "by lot" drawn in public and overseen by the secretary of state and governor.

Each candidate will choose a box from inside a bag, and the winner will be the candidate whose box contains a long, green straw.

Because Eaton was listed first on the ballot, he will draw first.

Eaton, a farmer who has served in the House 20 years, said Wednesday that he will accept the result of the tiebreaker.

"If it happens that I am not able to return to Jackson after Friday's drawing, it only means that I will be closer to home and still able to help the people of my area in any way I can," Eaton said. "That's what I've always done, and that's what I'll continue to do. And I will wish my opponent well."

Tullos, an attorney, said Wednesday that if he loses the drawing, he might appeal to the other 121 House members to examine how the election was conducted and determine the winner. He said last week that at one point during the counting process, he was ahead by six votes. He said affidavit votes were found in Smith County for people who live in District 79 but had moved from one precinct to another, and those votes resulted in a tie.

A Tullos victory would give Republicans 74 of the 122 House seats for the four-year term that starts in January, and that would be a three-fifths supermajority — enough to pass tax or bond bills without Democrats. The GOP currently has 67 seats.


Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .

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