Drawing straws is a selection method that is used by a group to choose one member of the group to perform a task after none has volunteered for it. The same practice can be used also to choose one of several volunteers, should an agreement not be reached.
The group leader takes a number of straws (or similarly long cylindrical objects) and ensures that one of them is physically shorter than the others. The leader then grabs all of the straws in his fist, such that all of them appear to be of the same length.
The group leader offers the clenched fist to the group. Each member of the group draws a straw from the fist of the group leader. At the end of the offering, the group member who has drawn the shortest straw is the one who must perform the task.
This practice is epitomized in the cliché "drawing the short straw"—to mean being randomly, unluckily, or unfairly selected to perform a task, at the risk of suffering a penalty.
United Kingdom 
In the United Kingdom, if a local or national election has resulted in a tie in which candidates receive exactly the same number of votes after three recounts, the winner can be decided either by drawing straws/lots, coin flipping, or drawing the high card in a pack of cards.