02 February 2008

Electoral Nightmare, or Comedy Gold?

When I think ahead to the real election this November, one thing comes to mind, which states that Sen. Kerry lost, will either Sen. Clinton or Sen. Obama win?

Most states weren't close, one way or the other, and aren't likely to switch columns, regardless of which combination of candidates end up representing each party. There were 12 states (CO, FL, IA, MI, MN, NV, NH, NM, OH, OR, PA, WI) where the results wer closer than 5% between Bush and Kerry, those also happen to be the 12 states where both campaigns spent the most time and money.

The potential for "fun" comes in when you consider that two states that went for Bush by less than 1% (New Mexico and Iowa) , plus Nevada which went for Bush by 2.59% but has had a continuing influx of refugees from Democratic states, and likely the electorate there leans more Democratic than before, that gives you exactly half of the difference between Bush and Kerry.

Assuming there won't be any faithless electors (which actually did happen in Minnesota last go round), and assuming that all the other states stay the same, while New Mexico, Iowa and Nevada flip to the Democratic column, you get the interesting situation of a 269 to 269 tie.

Wouldn't that be fun?

I don't think things will break this way, but it's definitely a possibility. Here's the wiki blurb on the contingency in case no candidate receives a majority of electors:
If no candidate for President receives a majority (270 votes) of the 538 possible electoral votes, the House of Representatives is required to go into session immediately to vote for President (pursuant to the Twelfth Amendment). In this case, the House of Representatives chooses from the three candidates who received the most electoral votes. Each state delegation has a single vote, decided by majority decision (an evenly divided state delegation is considered to have abstained). A candidate receiving the majority of votes of all states (currently 26) is declared the President-elect. If no candidate receives a majority, the House proceeds to a second ballot and continues balloting until a candidate receives a majority of the state unit votes. This situation would most likely occur only when more than two candidates receive electoral votes, but could theoretically happen in a two-person contest if each received 269 electoral votes.

To date, the House of Representatives has chosen the President on only two occasions: in 1801 and in 1825.

Looking at this map above (found here) of the current House of Representatives, 3 delegations are evenly split, 26 have more Democratic representatives than Republicans, which leaves only 21 states that are majority GOP in the House. A tie would be as good as a win for the Democrats it would appear, but appearances can be deceiving. In this tie scenario, only 21 states (+DC, which lacking a Representative doesn't get a say in this contingency) would have picked the Democratic candidate, which is basically the reverse of the House delegations. All three evenly split states (Arizona, Kansas, and Mississippi) are likely to be easily in the GOP column as far as the popular vote, so the Democratic representatives there would have a lot of pressure on them to vote the same way their state's voters did, rather than with their party. If all three of those states broke for the GOP, then you'd have a 24-26 split in favor of the Democrats. But there are some western and southern states that have "blue dog" Democratic representatives, and those states are likely to vote overwhelmingly Republican in November. These states are North Dakota, South Dakota, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee.

Any two of those state's delegations flip (and in the case of the Dakotas, delegation=1 person), and you'd have a majority Democratic House of Representatives still picking a Republican for President in a process that hadn't been trotted out in 184 years. The possibility for mischief is heightened even more when you consider that it will be the 110th US Congress picking the president in this scenario, and not the incoming 111th, you'll have quite a few people in the delegations who are on their way out of public life (or are bitter after getting voted out of public life), and wouldn't have to worry about facing voters again. In weakly GOP or Dem states, or states with only one or two representatives, these representatives would have an amazing amount of leverage, and might play coy to extract promises from either the GOP or Dem candidate.

If you thought the country was polarized now, imagine the aftermath in the wake of that process playing out in front of CSPAN cameras.

Luckily, the most likely event will be that someone clearly wins, or someone clearly loses, but this particular election has more potential for a tie than any in recent memory. On the one hand, it'd be entertaining as hell, on the other hand, it would probably be hell, regardless of who is selected, so vote early, and vote often so that this doesn't end up happening.

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