Nevada's Caucus Tiebreaker System Involves Drawing Cards From a Deck

February 20th 2016

LAS VEGAS — If you thought Iowa's decision to decide precincts that were too close to call via a coin toss was unusual — wait till you read what Nevada has in store. As the race for Democratic presidential candidate inches tighter between Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders on Saturday — a tie-breaker could actually come down to a stack of sealed cards and luck of the draw, CNN reports.

It might sound silly, but this is gaming country.

Here's how it works.

Across Nevada this Saturday, people are casting their votes for the Democratic party presidential nominee at neighborhood precincts. As of Saturday morning, Clinton was polling ahead of Sanders slightly by 2.4 percent, according to Real Clear Politics.

Here's what will happen in the case of a tie, according to a Nevada Democrats news release sent to ATTN: via email:

In the rare circumstances where two or more presidential preference groups are tied for the loss or gain of a precinct-level delegate and have the same lowest or highest decimal, groups must draw a single card from a deck of cards to break the tie. High card determines winner.

A high card will decide the winner. Aces are high.

Each precinct is set up by the Democratic party with an unopened deck of cards. If a tie comes up, the precinct chair there will open the deck, remove the jokers, and shuffle at least seven times. Seven is apparently the magic number to guarantee a good mix. Then, a representative from Sanders and Clinton would each draw a card. The high card wins.

"If the two sides pull cards of the same rank, the winner will be determined by suit: spades are the highest, with hearts, diamonds and clubs -- in that order -- to follow," CNN reports. Precinct chairs have a hotline number to call if it gets too confusing.

Why is there something special about Nevada?

Nevada is the first state on the West Coast to caucus at neighborhood meetings where Democrats join together in their communities to select a presidential preference, Nevada Democrats said in a news release. The state is the third in the U.S. and first on the West Coast to start the Democratic nomination process. Not only are the candidates fighting for Nevada's 35 delegates, which they'll need to earn their party's nomination, they're also trying to seize momentum heading into South Carolina.

No one knows whether it will be a Clinton or Sanders win yet in Nevada.

Nevada is still the Wild West when it comes to polling, writer Clare Malone of FiveThirtyEight explains. Just take a look at history:

"Nevada is among the hardest places to poll in the nation, with a spotty track record to prove it. Going into the 2008 Republican caucuses, the polling average gave Mitt Romney just a 5-point advantage over John McCain; Romney ended up winning by 38 points. In 2010 when Republican Sharron Angle challenged Harry Reid, then Senate majority leader, for his seat, the polling average showed her beating the incumbent by a 3-point margin; she lost to Reid by nearly 6 points."

A recent CNN/ORC poll discovered a near split among people who were likely to caucus as Democrats in the Silver State, with Clinton leading Sanders by a 48 percent to 47 percent margin, CNN reports.

[h/t CNN]

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