What happens if, in the presidential election, both candidates wind up with the same number of Electoral College votes? WaPo has some scenarios HERE.
Review: Popular vote does not elect a President as it does Representatives to Congress (Senators were once not elected by popular vote… we should go back to that, perhaps).
The Electors of the Electoral College elect the President and Vice President (who are not representatives of the people as much as they are executives of a federation of States). Popular vote, for the most part, designates the direction Electors must go in the actual presidential and vice-presidential election. Electors are in the individual states. They are chosen by the states and Washington DC, and they are “pledged” to cast their vote according to the popular vote in states (except I think in Nebraska and Maine, which are proportional rather than winner-take-all). Each state can have its own method of choosing Electors. Right now there are 538 Electors (the voting membership of the Congress, 435 Representatives + 100 Senators) and three for D.C.). Popular vote normally determines how the state’s Electors in the Electoral College ought to cast their votes. The Electoral College elects the President and Vice President in two different ballots. In theory, Electors could do their own thing in choosing for whom to vote. Some infamous Electors have gone against the popular vote of their states. If I remember correctly, the Supreme Court ruled that “faithless Electors” could be punished or their votes invalidated. Thus, if some doofus elector voted for, say, Ron Paul, after Romney or Obama won the doofus’s “winner-take-all Electors” state, that doofus’s vote could be scratched and the doofus could be fined, etc.
My native Minnesota does not by law require the Electors to go by the popular vote, but neighboring Wisconsin does.
In any event, what happens if there is a tie in the popular vote of the states which ought to determine the Electoral College votes? What then?
Let’s step back. The Electors of the Electoral College vote on the Monday after the second Wednesday in December after the presidential election. They meet in their own states, not together in Washington. They vote for President and Vice President on separate ballots. The results are recorded on a Certificate of Vote. The state’s Certificates of Vote is sent to the Congress and to the National Archives. Each state’s electoral votes are counted in a joint session of Congress in the House chamber on 6 January of the next calendar year. The sitting Vice President, as President of the Senate, presides over the count and announces the results.
According to the Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution, Electoral College ties are resolved in a rather byzantine way, reflecting a different age of the world, for sure, but also a different role for the POTUS and VPOTUS than we sometimes imagine. Let’s look:
The person having the greatest Number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice.
Can you imagine the squabbles in each state’s delegation? California has 53 congressmen, but only vote. The delegations of each state of the incoming, newly elected House, would have to determine among themselves how that one vote would be cast. They’d go by a majority, I suppose. Going by the Electoral College, California has 55 votes. In this tie resolving scenario that number is reduced to 1, which would make California as influential as Rhode Island. Remember: the President is the executive of a federation of States.
I think the ties for Vice President are handled in the Senate, rather than the House. That also happened once in the early 1800’s.
Also, since in this tie scenario a party’s candidates for President and Vice President are no longer linked together, as they are on election day for us mere peons at the ballot box, the House could elect a President Romney and a Vice President Biden… or Ryan… or, I think, Obama.
Nisi fallor, the House has only elected the President once. In the early 1800’s there was a square off between Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, someone else whose name escapes, and Henry Clay. Nobody received enough votes to win outright. Since the House could only choose from the top three candidates, Henry Clay was not eligible. The House elected Adams, instead of Jackson, after Clay endorsed Adams. Adams then made Clay Secretary of State. Plus ça change, …. Calhoun was VP. A lake was named after him in my native Minneapolis, by the way.
I like this system. First, it underscores that this is a federation of States. We have gotten away from talking about THESE United States and rather say THE United States. “These” is, in my opinion, better though I slip on this all the time.
The federal government is encroaching on the sovereignty of States. The Electoral College process reminds us that President is not the directly elected representative of the people, but rather an executive for the federation of States. This is why there is an Electoral College and why, in my opinion, there should not be direct popular vote of the President of these United States.
That said, let’s have a POLL!
Please choose your best answer and give your reasons in the combox, below.