In 1980, Democrat Robert Hawk and Republican state Rep. Darren Hillary of Albuquerque saw their race end in a dead heat. Hawk won the seat on a coin toss.
In 1996, Republicans William Payne and D. Scott Glasrud each received 1,170 votes in a primary election for a state Senate seat in Bernalillo County.
Another coin flip determined the winner. Glasrud called heads. The quarter landed on tails.
Payne advanced to the general election and then began a long career in the Senate. He is still in office, having won reelection this month to a fifth term.
This November continued the pattern of a tie election after a 16-year interval.
Republican state Rep. Terry McMillan of Las Cruces and his challenger, Democrat Joanne J. Ferrary, each had 6,247 votes Friday after canvassing concluded.
A forthcoming recount could break the tie. If it does not, said Lynn Ellins, the Do-a Ana County clerk, then a drawing, coin flip or some other game of chance will determine who goes to the state House of Representatives from District 37.
A victory by McMillan would leave Democrats with a 38-32 advantage in the House. If Ferrary wins, that would stretch the Democrats' margin to 39-31, making it a bit harder for Republican Gov. Susana Martinez to advance her legislative agenda.
Ellins, formerly a deputy secretary of state in Colorado, said he had never seen a tie election until the Ferrary-McMillan race. But across the country, tie votes seem to happen every election, many in small towns.
Most are settled with a game of chance. Others are more contentious.
This month, in Kenton Vale, Ky., 41 of the town's 45 registered voters cast ballots. One race for the city commission ended in a tie, necessitating a coin toss to establish a winner.
Earlier this year, another tie 1,881 votes apiece occurred in a Republican primary for district attorney of Livingston County, N.Y. There was no coin toss in that race.
Instead, both candidates moved on to the general election, though neither found success.
One ran as a Republican, the other as the nominee of the Conservative Party. They split the vote and a Democrat won the race, a rarity in that part of New York.
New Mexico's Payne has been a senator for 16 years, so his coin-toss victory is rarely discussed anymore. It typically comes up only when a tie election or a recount in a close race occurs.
A former Navy SEAL, rear admiral and an attorney, Payne is among the Legislature's most competitive members. For all his will to win, he could have lost his bid for the Senate if that quarter had landed on heads instead of tails