What Happens if there is a Tie Vote in the Up-coming Presidential Election? -By Robert Greenslade - Price of Liberty
What Happens if there is a Tie Vote
In the Up-coming Presidential Election?

By Robert Greenslade © Nitwit Press

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October 27, 2004

Since the election between George W. Bush and John Kerry is razor close and the State of Colorado is contemplating a new law that would split its electoral votes, there is a possibility the 2004 election will result in a tie. When I told a group of people discussing all the ways John Kerry can win the presidency that they had better hope the election does not result in a tie, their euphoria turned to confusion. After I told them that George W. Bush would win the election if there is a tie in the Electoral College vote, they looked at me in disbelief and asked how someone could possibly predict the winner of a tie. I told them it was simple--the answer is in the Constitution.

In a presidential election, there are 538 potential votes. Yes the so-called national popular vote is constitutionally meaningless. The States have 535 of those votes and the District of Columbia has 3. Every State receives one elector for each congressional Representative and one elector for each of its two Senators (435 members of the House of Representatives and 100 Senators equals 535). If a State has eight Representatives and two Senators, it would have ten electoral votes in the up-coming election.

To win the presidency, a candidate needs to win a majority of the total number of electoral votes. Based on 538 potential votes, it takes 270 votes to win the election. Under this system, a candidate can constitutionally win the election with a decided majority of the people against him. It is also possible for a candidate to win the election with a decided majority of the States against him. Eleven States have a total of 271 electoral votes, 1 vote more than the minimum number necessary to win the election. The other 39 States and the District of Columbia have 267 votes, 3 votes short of the minimum number. Since there is an even number of potential electoral votes, it is possible that neither Bush nor Kerry will receive the 270 votes necessary to win the election. If the election ends in a tie, 269 to 269, the 12th Amendment mandates the House of Representatives to immediately choose the President. The Amendment vests the Senate with the duty of choosing the Vice President.

The vote in the House is taken by State with each State having one vote (50 total votes). Two thirds of the States (34) must be represented and before adjournment, a majority vote of all the States (26) is necessary to elect. The District of Columbia is excluded from this process because it is not a State. When 26 States have cast their vote for a candidate, that individual becomes President of the United States. Under this format, the House is not bound by the national popular vote. Thus, a candidate who lost the general election by ten million votes can be elected president if the House decides the election.

In the election of the Vice President, two-thirds (67) of the whole number of Senators (100) must be present. The candidate must win a majority of all the Senators in order to be elected. When a candidate receives 51 votes, that individual becomes Vice-President of the United States.

With the development of political parties, an electoral deadlock will turn into a simple numbers game. The party that controls most number of State delegations in the House of Representatives will vote for their presidential candidate. By the same token, the party with the greater number of Senators will vote for their vice-presidential candidate. Pure partisanship would determine the outcome of the election irrespective of the wishes of the American people.

At the present time, Republicans have the majority in 30 House delegations while the Democrats have 15. In the Senate, there are 50 Republicans, 49 Democrats and 1 Independent. If the Independent voted with the Democrats, there would be a 50-50 tie. In the event of a tie vote in the Senate, the Vice President, as the President of the Senate, would cast the tie-breaking vote. Thus, Vice President Cheney would cast the deciding vote for himself.

When an election goes to the House and Senate it is the in-coming Congress that decides the election, not the one in office during the election. Since the Republicans are projected to maintain control of the House and Senate in the up-coming congressional elections, an electoral deadlock would all but guarantee the re-election of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. However, if the Republicans lose control of the Senate and there is an electoral deadlock in the presidential election, then President Bush's Vice President for the next 4 years will be John Edwards, a Democrat.

During the past 4 years, Democrats have gone out of their way to convince the American people that the Bush presidency has divided the country. If the election unfolds as described above and we have a Republican president and House on one side vs. a Democrat vice president and Senate on the other, a divided government will split the American people along party lines like never before. This could bring the legislative process to a virtual standstill. Given the massive usurpation of power being advanced by these two parties since FDR’s savage attack on the Constitution and system of limited government established by that document, an idle legislative process brought on by an electoral tie sounds like the winning ticket to me.


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