Tuesday, November 21, 2006

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.

We won! Cool. Now the real work begins.

If anyone's actually stopping by, my apologies for the lack of posts recently. Life's been busy, and the big things lately have been Iraq and the election, which you didn't need my help to follow.

The Dems won, which is of course a Good Thing. Just for the heck of it, here's the updated, consolidated scorecard:

House of Representatives: we picked up 29 formerly GOP-held seats, at last count, and lost none, with 5 GOP-held seats still being contested in one way or another. (I'll get back to that in a minute.) So the Dems will have, at a minimum, a 232-203 edge in the House in 2007.

Senate: As everyone knows, we picked up 6 GOP-held seats, and lost none. Webb, Tester, McCaskill, Sherrod Brown, Casey, and Whitehouse in VA, MT, MO, OH, PA, and RI, respectively.

Lieberman (CFL) beat Lamont (D) in CT, but he'll caucus with the Dems, despite veiled threats to do otherwise: the day after he goes over, he becomes irrelevant, and he knows it. All he's got is bullshit. Main thing is, he's in the Senate as a sorta Democrat, but as a marriage of convenience all around. He's not there by dint of the support of actual Democrat voters.

Governorships: picked up 6 and lost 0 here, too. Beebe, Ritter, O'Malley, Spitzer, Strickland, and Deval Patrick in AR, CO, MD, NY, OH, and MA, respectively.

State Legislatures: we picked up control of nine state legislative chambers, with control of two (MT House and PA House) still pending final results in local races. This gives us at least 56 of the 98 state legislative chambers. (Nebraska has a technically nonpartisan unicameral legislature, which is why only 98 rather than 100.)

This is almost as big a deal as everything else here, for several reasons: (1) it shows that people liked us better than the GOP at the state level, as well as this just being an anti-Bush, anti-Iraq protest vote; (2) it adds a whole bunch of potential Dem candidates for House seats and governorships; and (3) these are the folks who control redistricting, which the GOP has famously gone out of its way to game in their favor in the past few years. The more state legislatures where we control at least one house, the fewer states where the GOP can pull that sort of stuff.

Getting back to those still-pending House races:

There are two runoffs pending. One of them is between two Dems (LA-02, where William ($80K in the icebox) Jefferson is in a runoff with Karen Carter) so we hold that seat either way, but hopefully Carter will emerge victorious over one of the few genuinely sleazy Dems of note. The other is in TX-23, between GOP incumbent Bonilla and Dem challenger Ciro Rodriguez. Don't know what our prospects are, but apparently it ain't over, because the DCCC is putting money and staff into that one. So that's a chance for a pickup.

There are four GOP-held seats where the Election Day results are either still being tabulated or being contested. Larry Kissel in NC-08, Dr. Vicki Wulsin in OH-2, and Mary Jo Kilroy in OH-15 all trail, but by substantially less than the number of absentee and provisional ballots still to be counted. The odds are against any of these three becoming a pickup, but you never know.

And Christine Jennings in FL-13 is legally challenging a loss by only a few hundred votes on account of an astonishingly high number of voters in Sarasota County, where she won a majority of the voters, who failed to vote in the House race. Many people reported problems with the House race not appearing on the electronic ballot, and there were about 12% fewer votes in the House race in Sarasota County than in the Senate and Governor races, while the difference was more like 2% in the rest of the district. This one may be decided by the House of Representatives, which could either seat Jennings or keep the seat open pending a revote. So this one's very much in play.

Now that the scorecard's over, the reason why I'm not jumping up and down with joy is that this is only a first step. The point of winning these races is to actually do stuff. Iraq's gone from quagmire to disaster, we're still doing nothing about global warming, and average Americans still aren't sharing in the nation's economic gains.

But now we can at least try to start addressing these issues. When the GOP controlled Congress, we couldn't even get our legislation considered, let alone passed. So it's a big first step.