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SIOUX CITY | The luck of the draw and a hat broke a tied race for mayor in Cushing, Iowa, as Woodbury County election results were finalized Tuesday.

With 22 votes each, names for Cushing mayoral candidates Gary Merkel and Donald Joy Jr. were tossed into a hat. Merkel’s name was pulled out moments later, cementing another two-year term for the incumbent.

Merkel has been mayor of the town with a population of about 220 since 1992.

Merkel, who was not at the drawing, said there are few ways to fairly determine a tied election once all votes are counted.

“I don’t know how else you would do it,” he said. “I have heard other places flip a coin. Putting two names in a hat seems fair. Whoever comes out is the winner.”

County Commissioner of Elections Pat Gill said drawing a name from a hat is used at least once during each general election, but usually in small-town races where no one petitioned to be in the ballot.

In those cases, the hat is used to break a tie where write-in candidates get one or two votes.

"It's not uncommon, but it's usually for a city council, not a mayor's race," Gill said.

Tuesday also saw last week's voter results certified, and there were no changes from the preliminary Nov. 5 election results, Gill said.

New terms start Jan. 1, except for Jon Winkel, elected mayor of Sergeant Bluff in a write-in campaign, who took office Tuesday to fill the final six weeks of former mayor Dale Petersen's term. 

Overall, Gill said the elections were smooth, especially with Sioux City using polling centers for the first time. They allow voters to cast a ballot at any of the city’s 13 voting sites.

“This was the first time in my 16 years here people called up to say we did a good job. They liked the polling centers,” Gill said. “Normally when people call us, it’s with a complaint.”

Two Sac County races left up in the air on Nov. 5 were also finalized Tuesday.

Brian Pibal was elected mayor with 26 votes in Lytton in a one-candidate race.

For Schaller City Council, Lyle Noll, with 152 votes, followed by Kenneth Kroese with 103 and Marcy Hallengren, with 86, were each elected. Candidates Brian Woodke, with 83 votes, followed by Mike Erblich with 35 and Ray Voss with 27, failed to earn a seat.

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Nate Robson is the education reporter for the Journal. He writes about issues impacting local school districts and colleges.

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