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October 10, 2012 3:02 PM   Subscribe

What if the Presidential election is a tie?
posted by desjardins (65 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
The founders could not foresee every possibility. And let's admit it, there is no way in hell that a viable third party ever emerges in America to make this apocalyptic scenario possible.
posted by Renoroc at 3:10 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


An 18th century solution is right.
posted by Apropos of Something at 3:13 PM on October 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Dance-off.
posted by atrazine at 3:13 PM on October 10, 2012 [12 favorites]


rock. paper. scissors.
posted by Golden Eternity at 3:14 PM on October 10, 2012


tl;dw

If neither candidate gets a majority of the Electoral Votes, the election for President is decided in the House of Representatives, with each state delegation having one vote. Senators would elect the Vice-President.
posted by Egg Shen at 3:14 PM on October 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Obama skins and wears Romney as a suit, right?

*looks at video*

Oh, that isn't in your constitution. My bad.
posted by maudlin at 3:14 PM on October 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


Renoroc: there is no way in hell that a viable third party ever emerges in America to make this apocalyptic scenario possible.

Probable. Even without the third party mucking things up the tie situation remains possible. It's just not very probable, and without the third part mucking it is even less probable. But it's still possible. And that's the issue taken in the video. Near the end, if you didn't get that far.
posted by carsonb at 3:16 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


In reality there'd be recounts and lawsuits and Supreme Court intervention.
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:17 PM on October 10, 2012 [11 favorites]


> "The founders could not foresee every possibility. And let's admit it, there is no way in hell that a viable third party ever emerges in America to make this apocalyptic scenario possible."

They did foresee this possibility, this video is about the method for resolving it, the scenario does not require a third party, and third parties have won states and gotten electoral college votes within living memory.

So ... huh?
posted by kyrademon at 3:17 PM on October 10, 2012 [18 favorites]


Fuckin' Tombstone 2.0. Romney & his eight boys on one side - - B.O., Biden with a shotgun, Hillary, & Rahm on the other, bringing hell. Law don't go round here, law dog...
posted by mattbucher at 3:18 PM on October 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


this is not a video of cats and dogs living together as I had expected. Well done, A++++ would watch again.
posted by boo_radley at 3:19 PM on October 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Doesn't Canada get to take over?
posted by never used baby shoes at 3:24 PM on October 10, 2012 [12 favorites]


Interesting! In my town, an MP just stepped down, and in the party meeting to elect the green party candidate for the by election, there was a tied vote. It was resolved by coin toss, after which the winning candidate resigned and the support behind his opponent.

Roberts rules provides for two options in electoral meetings: coin toss, or vote again.
posted by chapps at 3:26 PM on October 10, 2012


Scumbag other 40 states: Has less than 50% of the population, gets 80% of the votes.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:31 PM on October 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


Battle Royale
posted by nathancaswell at 3:40 PM on October 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


What if the Presidential election is a tie?

Pretty sure that translates to Republican victory, the arguments as to why not really mattering much, cf 2000.
posted by Artw at 3:40 PM on October 10, 2012 [11 favorites]


The tricky problem of having a President from one party and a vice president from another who really fucking hated each other was par for the course the moment Washington left office until constitutional reforms created the system we have today
posted by Blasdelb at 3:42 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


This video does not mention this extremely important point from the 20th Amendment. In the event of an electoral college tie, it is the new 113th Congress elected in November and sworn in January 3, not the lame-duck 112th Congress, that selects the President on January 6.

As of now, 14 state delegations are majority Democrat, 34 are Republican, and 2 are tied, but several states may flip control. It is exceedingly unlikely based on the political climate today that Democrats will gain enough seats to control 26 or more delegations, but a huge late-breaking wave may change that.

A 269-269 tie is a Romney victory, most likely.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 3:45 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Actually he's wrong. (I think. And I really like C.G.P. Grey.)

Amendment 23:
Section 1. The District constituting the seat of Government of the United States shall appoint in such manner as the Congress may direct:
A number of electors of President and Vice President equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives in Congress to which the District would be entitled if it were a State, but in no event more than the least populous State; they shall be in addition to those appointed by the States, but they shall be considered, for the purposes of the election of President and Vice President, to be electors appointed by a State; and they shall meet in the District and perform such duties as provided by the twelfth article of amendment.
So for the purposes here, there would be 51 states, thus no tie.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:50 PM on October 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Obama skins and wears Romney as a suit, right?

But then the giant lizard currently wearing Romney's skin would be naked!
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:51 PM on October 10, 2012 [21 favorites]


Navelgazer, DC does not have a member of Congress. After the Electoral College is tied, its role is complete , DC loses its elector, and the election is entirely decided by Congress.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 3:52 PM on October 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


All nations have some Rube Goldberg aspects to their construction, because they're created from preexisting communities and have to accommodate the wishes and needs of those founding populations. The United States was closer to creation from first principles than a lot of countries, but they still had to deal with the conflicting desires of heterogeneous states, and their representatives in the Continental Congress. That's why the Electoral College was created in the first place.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:53 PM on October 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hollywood Upstairs Medical College, my reading of the 23rd and how it refers to the 12th includes this procedure. At the very least I would assume that this would have to be decided by the courts at that point.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:57 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


"DC does not have a member of Congress."

I BEG YOUR PARDON. Aside from that you are right though, she could not count as our state's delegation to Congress to break what would otherwise be a tie
posted by Blasdelb at 3:57 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


DC has a Delegate to Congress, yes. However, I would posit for the sake of not being able to insert "non-voting" into my comment that "member" necessarily includes "voting". :)
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 4:00 PM on October 10, 2012


KISSING CONTEST

FIRST PERSON TO BLUSH LOSES

"OH, BUT I ALWAYS LOSE," MEWS A FLIRTY PAUL RYAN

AS JOE BIDEN APPLIES BETTIE BOOP LIPSTICK
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:02 PM on October 10, 2012 [41 favorites]


there is no way in hell that a viable third party ever emerges in America

Largely because of people saying this.
posted by DU at 4:03 PM on October 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


And let's admit it, there is no way in hell that a viable third party ever emerges in America to make this apocalyptic scenario possible.

See 1948. A Republican vote swing of 18,000 more votes in California plus 7,200 more votes in Ohio denies Truman an outright Electoral College majority, yielding 253 for Truman (Dem), 239 For Dewey (Rep) and 39 for Thurmond (Racist Douchebag). Fortunately for Truman the House and Senate were again comfortably Democratic after his successful campaign against the 'Do-Nothing' GOP-led Congress elected in '46.

1968 would be a bit more of a stretch. Wallace (see also: RACIST DOUCHEBAG) pulled more EVs than ol' Strom, but Nixon's margins in close states were a bit more comfy. Good thing for Tricky Dick, since both houses of the incoming Congress were Democrat-dominated.
posted by hangashore at 4:03 PM on October 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


The Tea Party is hardly heard of these days, but remember that all those Tea Party congresspeople are still in office with their doctrinaire rigidity. Some at least will be re-elected.
The Republican party wants to win control of the Senate, and grudgingly put Mitt the Twit in office.
They apparently plan to renege on payment of Social Security which had premiums paid in almost every one's working life, and should pay off like an insurance policy.
"Rework" Medicaid and Medicare? Save your money, you will need it to but granny's pills.
George Bush is carefully omitted form any political advertising, but you do not need much memory to recall how the nation got in the trouble it is in now.
The presidential race is not the only important one.
posted by Cranberry at 4:05 PM on October 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


So for the purposes here, there would be 51 states, thus no tie.


And even if an actual lawyer points out that Delegate Norton would vote, it is still possible for no candidate to reach a majority in the House.

See 12th Amendment:
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.

If a state has an even number of members (by my count, 25 states in the new Congress), split evenly among party, they won't be able to cast a vote. It is certainly possible that there will be at least 2 of those states with split delegations, leaving 48 votes. Obama and Romney get 24 each, neither reaches a majority.

Now, that would require Democrats pick up a bunch of seats and that Obama not reach 270, which is pretty unlikely, but this thread is for hypotheticals.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 4:06 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


there is no way in hell that a viable third party ever emerges in America

Largely because of people saying this.


It's basically a law of nature that in a first-past-the-post plurality voting system like the U.S.'s, support will always consolidate into two parties fighting over the median voter. Third parties may erupt from time to time but they'll always collapse, merge with an existing party, or replace an existing party.

If we want multiple parties, and I do, we need to pull the trigger and have a Constitutional Convention.
posted by gerryblog at 4:28 PM on October 10, 2012 [13 favorites]


(sorry to feed the derail)
posted by gerryblog at 4:29 PM on October 10, 2012


Let's also say that there are 16 state delegations that are evenly split. A quorum of 2/3 of the states is, then, impossible until some of the members of Congress either switch party or fail to show up to the vote. One solution is wait until enough members of one party within the split delegations are assassinated, or the below...

Congress is the judge of its own election returns (Constitution Art 1 Sec 5).

It would be mathematically possible for there to be a Democratic or Republican majority of seats that does not control a majority of state delegations. This is mathematically possible because a party can win 218 seats out of 435 with a minimum of controlling 8 state delegations (win every seat in 8 most populous states + 7 out of 15 seats in the 9th).

Let's say Republicans control a majority of seats but control only 8 delegations. There are 18 split delegations. Democrats control the remaining 24.

The first vote on January 6 would be 24 states voting Obama to 8 states voting Romney, totaling 32 states. This is not a quorum of 2/3, and Obama fails to reach 25.

Republicans can vote to refuse to recognize the elections of all of the Democratic representatives immediately after swearing in on January 3 and before the formal meeting to decide the Presidency on January 6.

Under the Federal Contested Election Act of 1969, the House can refer the election to the Committee on House Administration, which does a (in this scenario, incredibly rapid) investigation, and the full House votes by simple majority whether to seat the Republican or the Democrat. The House then refuses to seat enough Democrats in favor of Republicans to get a majority and installs Romney as President. This decision cannot be appealed in court, and is thus final.

Now, it is important that the election be contested, it is distinct from expelling a member which requires 2/3.

If this happened and Romney won, there would likely be peace on the streets, as there was a distinct lack of violence after the 2000 debacle. If Obama won like this, though, I shudder to think what the right wing will do...
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 4:32 PM on October 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


If we want multiple parties, and I do, we need to pull the trigger and have a Constitutional Convention.

But wouldn't that mean getting rid of the first past the post system? And isn't the process to start a constitution convention require a majority of states or their representatives, which would mean those thinly populated states with big clout would have to vote against their interests?
posted by FJT at 4:48 PM on October 10, 2012


Use Political Kombat.
posted by Wordshore at 4:50 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


But wouldn't that mean getting rid of the first past the post system? And isn't the process to start a constitution convention require a majority of states or their representatives, which would mean those thinly populated states with big clout would have to vote against their interests?

Yep. It's a sticky wicket. Basically the best bet seems to be calling a Constitutional Convention for some other, smaller reason and then blowing up the process; from what little I've read on the subject it seems like there'd be no way to limit the scope of a Constitutional Convention once it began.
posted by gerryblog at 5:00 PM on October 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Should We Have a New Constitutional Convention?" by former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.
It's a review in the New York Review of Books of Framed: America’s Fifty-One Constitutions and the Crisis of Governance by Sanford Levinson.
posted by kirkaracha at 5:40 PM on October 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


As of 10/1 Nate Silver calculated the chance of a tie at 0.6%. Very unlikely, but boy, would it be a mess. I wonder if it has gotten more likely as Romney has improved in the polls.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 5:42 PM on October 10, 2012


I was going to write something snarky about how amazing it is that the US hasn't collapsed into anarchic decay with such a messed up electoral system, but then I remembered that here in Canada, we give pretty much divine powers to our Prime Minister even though typically only about 35-42 percent of our population votes for his party.

And if you want to play technical electoral apocalypse games, in theory our PM only needs to see his party get just one more vote than the second place party in just 155 of 308 ridings to win a majority in Parliament.
posted by senor biggles at 5:52 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


AS JOE BIDEN APPLIES BETTIE BOOP LIPSTICK

I have the strangest Boehner.
posted by zippy at 6:07 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


If DC gets a vote, a lot of other places would too. From the house.gov page:

Currently, there are five delegates representing the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. A resident commissioner represents Puerto Rico.
posted by zug at 6:10 PM on October 10, 2012


Pater Aletheias, today the chance of a tie is listed at 0.9%.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:19 PM on October 10, 2012


there is no way in hell that a viable third party ever emerges in America

Largely because of people saying this.


No, it's because of people saying this:

"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."

A viable third party Presidential candidate means no President ever gets a majority of electors, which means every election goes to the House. Where, as Hollywood Upstairs Medical College points out, you still need a majority of states. A viable third party Presidential candidate means a third major political party with House presence, which means no candidate is likely to receive a majority. Which means the second half of the 12th Amendment kicks in, and that flatly limits the choice to two.

Whether or not this should be the case, it is the case that the US Presidential election is mandated to be a two-party system by the Constitution.
posted by kafziel at 6:42 PM on October 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


i bet something silly would happen! maybe it would be homoerotic or involve incongruously mundane things! maybe both at the same time, who knows
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 6:50 PM on October 10, 2012


My position is that giant lizards should always be naked, as giant lizards in clothing can be disconcerting. the Gorn included.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:48 PM on October 10, 2012


I was going to write something snarky about how amazing it is that the US hasn't collapsed into anarchic decay with such a messed up electoral system, but then I remembered that here in Canada, we give pretty much divine powers to our Prime Minister even though typically only about 35-42 percent of our population votes for his party.



Westminster-style parliaments are intended to help create governments that have strong legislative power for the winning party ( current UK coalition arrangement is unusual)
So - a feature rather than a bug
It has its flaws but on the other hand, exact representative proportionality isn't necessarily the best primary goal
posted by Bwithh at 7:55 PM on October 10, 2012


Question - is it actually mathematically possible for there to be a tie? For example, if we have 10 votes total, but they are split into blocks of 3, 3, and 4, a tie is not possible.
posted by maryr at 8:05 PM on October 10, 2012


maryr: even in your example, 10 votes among three candidates could be split 4-4-2, so you could have a tie between the top two candidates.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:17 PM on October 10, 2012


maryr, yes, it's possible. First example that I've come up with: Everything alphabetically from Alabama to Montana, except for Minnesota and Mississippi, is 269 electoral votes.
posted by Flunkie at 8:20 PM on October 10, 2012


zug: Not so, those territories don't have the 23rd Amendment on their side.
posted by fitnr at 8:21 PM on October 10, 2012


Whoops, two things:

(1) I meant "except Mississippi and Missouri", not "except Minnesota and Mississippi".

(2) I was counting DC as "Washington, DC" rather than "District of Columbia". So if you count it as "District of Columbia" instead of "Washington, DC", it's even easier: Everything alphabetically from Alabama to Minnesota.
posted by Flunkie at 8:23 PM on October 10, 2012


... but it turns out that "except Minnesota and Missouri" works anyway.

I'll shut up now.
posted by Flunkie at 8:25 PM on October 10, 2012


DevilsAdvocate - sorry, I was unclear. I was suggesting that if the election were to be decided between, say, Vermont, Delaware, and Hawaii, and that delegates were required to cast their votes for the party that won their state, that there could be no tie.

At any rate, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that with 50-odd possibilities, you can come up with two sets that equal 269.
posted by maryr at 8:49 PM on October 10, 2012


There are scenarios for a 269/269 split that are unlikely, but still plausible and not totally crazy. Here's one. Among swing states, Obama wins VA and CO, Romney wins NV, IA, OH, FL, NC and NH. (Obama wins WI if you consider that a swing state; I don't.) All other states vote the way everyone expects.
posted by gimonca at 9:07 PM on October 10, 2012


Out of curiosity, I took a look at current delegations, redistricting and forecasts on tight races in the House. If a tied electoral college were to throw the election into the House, my back-of-envelope calculation says that the outcome would be:

31 states voting R
15 states voting D
4 states would deadlock and not cast a vote

There are, of course, monstrous caveats around that, and many, many unusual factors in play, so this is for entertainment purposes only.

In that model, there are six R states that could plausibly end up as D states--it doesn't take many persons to swing the delegation one way or the other. Three of the four deadlocked states could swing either way.

Of course, as Hollywood UMC points out above, the sort of wave election that would swing a lot of state delegations to the D side would be unlikely to create an electoral college tie at the same time.

R states: AL AK AR FL GA ID IN KS KY LA MS MO NE ND OH OK PA SC SD TN TX UT VA WV WY

Somewhat less certain R states: CO IL MI MT NC WI

D states: CA CT DE HI ME MD MA NJ NM NY OR RI VT WA

Somewhat less certain D state: AZ

Deadlocked states, could go either way if not deadlocked: IA NV NH

Deadlocked state, could go D if not deadlocked: MN
posted by gimonca at 10:04 PM on October 10, 2012


Bottom line: in a scenario that would create an electoral college tie, it is somewhat likely that the Republicans would control at least 25 delegations. Maybe, or even probably, more.
posted by gimonca at 10:08 PM on October 10, 2012


Don't worry, there's an 18th century solution to the problem.

Could almost be the GOP motto!

The tricky problem of having a President from one party and a vice president from another who really fucking hated each other was par for the course the moment Washington left office until constitutional reforms created the system we have today .... where it's perfectly possible to have a President and Vice President from the same party who hate each other. I think the most recent modern example was Nixon and Agnew.

there is no way in hell that a viable third party ever emerges in America

You may get your wish sooner than you think. There are claims that if Obama wins, the GOP will tear itself apart. Possibly far-fetched -- the GOP has great powers of recovery and a habit of lining up at the moment of necessity -- but there certainly will be internecine battles between Tea Partiers and moderates, and you never know if one of them will run as an independent in 2016, Perot-style. Gingrich and Trump were both rumored to be considering such runs this year alone.
posted by dhartung at 10:49 PM on October 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that in the event of a tie, Al Gore will step in and concede the win to the Republicans.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 10:50 PM on October 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


An hour of The Dozens
posted by stormpooper at 7:07 AM on October 11, 2012


there is no way in hell that a viable third party ever emerges in America

Largely because of people saying this.


No, because this is a first-past-the-post system. Not cynicism. If you don't understand the mechanism, how can you make pronouncements?
posted by grubi at 8:09 AM on October 11, 2012


(I now see gerryblog has addressed this. Many pardons.)
posted by grubi at 8:11 AM on October 11, 2012


You may get your wish sooner than you think. There are claims that if Obama wins, the GOP will tear itself apart. Possibly far-fetched -- the GOP has great powers of recovery and a habit of lining up at the moment of necessity -- but there certainly will be internecine battles between Tea Partiers and moderates, and you never know if one of them will run as an independent in 2016, Perot-style. Gingrich and Trump were both rumored to be considering such runs this year alone.

Unlikely. Every time the GOP loses, Democrats keep on saying that their existence as a major party is threatened, and yet they almost always end up taking more power in the following election. Look at 1992/1994 and 2008/2010 if you don't believe me. The likely scenario in the event of an Obama win (and presumably holding onto the Senate) this year is that the party pulls itself further to the right, moderate GOP folks end up in the Democratic column but are unenthusiastic voters, doubly so in midterm elections. White men will get angrier and vote more often, and in 2014 the GOP will make gains, possibly enough to retake the Senate (if they don't do it this year). All the while, they'll be continuing the enormous successes at the local and state level that they've been building on for 30-odd years (with a small blip in 2004-2008) that will make it harder for the usual Democratic constituencies to be represented and/or vote. Further assuming that Obama's second term is more or less uneventful--we know that very little will get done through at least 2014--then 2016 becomes another big choice election. The GOP's 2010 wave in the Senate will be up, and they may be very unpopular at that point if they've accomplished little to nothing. If the Democrats haven't held on to the Senate and/or retaken the House, it's likely that whoever is picked by the Democrats will be running more against the GOP Congress than the GOP candidate.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:23 AM on October 11, 2012


White men will get angrier and vote more often ...

and become less numerous, though if we're talking suburban voters rather than just white males, George W. Bush won 97 of the 100 fastest growing counties in 2004. The Democrat base is in cities, not suburbs.
posted by zippy at 1:34 PM on October 11, 2012


Every time the GOP loses, Democrats keep on saying that their existence as a major party is threatened, and yet they almost always end up taking more power in the following election.

I did say "possibly far-fetched". One thing that is interesting this time around is that this sentiment is coming from Republicans themselves -- although largely in the form of a sort of warning alarm from Rush Limbaugh. Until Mitt's recent poll surge I think they were entertaining doom-and-gloom scenarios, and the evidence is before us even now that the party has recuperative properties.

Anyway, I"m thinking more ideologically. The laws of political science suggest that our winner-take-all two-party system essentially creates its own balancing forces. But yes, the demographics are the real problem here. They have to find a way to appeal to people outside their core. I wouldn't dare predict 2016 at this point but it's likely that some issue will arise they can flog.
posted by dhartung at 8:00 PM on October 13, 2012


This is why elections should be decided by the popular vote, because I know for a fact that the population of the United States is always an odd number.
posted by Rarebit Fiend at 10:08 PM on October 18, 2012


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