An Electoral College Tie at 269: Who Wins? Us!
One of my occasional hobbyhorses over the past few years is how close we came in 2004 to a 269-269 tie in the Electoral College (just a few thousand votes each in Nevada, New Mexico, and Iowa), how little good it would have done us, and my concern that it could happen for real in 2008.
You see, in event of neither candidate getting a majority of the Electoral College's 538 votes, the House of Representatives chooses the next President, and the Senate chooses the Veep. Obviously, in 2004, that would have done us no good at all: the House would have returned Bush to the White House, and the Senate would have continued Cheney's portfolio as Vice President.
But the House side of the equation isn't just a majority-rules situation - it's worse than that: if the Presidential election winds up in the House, per the 12th Amendment, each state delegation gets one vote, with a majority (26 states) required for a win. Since, in the current Congress, the GOP has the majority in 29 state delegations, the Dems in 18, and three tied, I didn't have much hope that that would change, even if the Dems won back the House.
It's changed. Not by quite enough to win outright, but enough not to lose.
As a result of the recent elections, the Dems went from a minority to a majority in the delegations of New Hampshire, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Iowa, and Colorado. And they went from a tie to a majority of the Minnesota delegation, and from a minority in the Arizona delegation to a tie. So now the Dems have a majority of 25 House delegations, a minority of 22, and are tied in 3.
So what would happen in a tie election if it were held a year early? The election would go into the House, which (at first) wouldn't yield a majority for either candidate. But meanwhile, the Senate (51-49 Dem) would elect the Dem Veep candidate as Vice President, who would (per the 20th Amendment) act as President until the House settled on a candidate.
In a perfect world, that alone should suffice to convince a tied delegation to throw in the towel and vote the Dem candidate in as President. If not, the Veep/Acting President could officially appoint the Dem Presidential nominee as his advisor, and treat him like the President, giving him the Oval Office as his own, letting him live in the White House while the Veep/Acting President lived in the Vice Presidential residence on Observatory Circle, and so forth.
After a while of this, the Congressional opposition could either throw in the towel, or be irrelevant. Their choice.
Of course, if the 2008 election ends in an Electoral College tie, it'll be the Congress elected that year that decides the issue. But barring a reversal of fortune in 2008, we're far better situated to 'win' a 2008 tie now than we were a month ago.