It's at Least a Possibility...Thanks to Our Founders
As the election approaches its final climax we are beginning to see the polls tighten up in the various battleground states that are still in play. As a result, the likelihood of a 269-269 tie in the electoral college is becoming more likely with each passing day. Though odds-makers claim that a 269-269 tie is relatively low, the fact remains that this outcome is still within the realm of possibility.
So what happens if the election ends in an electoral college tie? Most people think that the popular vote would then come into play. WRONG! The 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution spells out what will happen in the event of a 269-269 tie.
If we have a tie on November 4th, the House of Representatives will convene on January 6th to vote for the next president of the United States. Now, most Republicans fear this outcome because of the fact that the Democrats are favored to pick up a few seats in the house. However, the voting is NOT based on a MAJORITY in the House. Instead, the 12th Amendment stipulates that EACH STATE gets one vote. This means that a heavily populated state like California will be on the EXACT SAME playing field as Wyoming and other small states. So, what will happen is each state delegation will meet and cast their vote for the next president. If the state has a Republican majority then the state will likely vote for McCain. Here is an example:
Arkansas (which has 4 representatives in the House) is split with 3 Democrats and 1 Republican. In the event of a 269-269 tie, these four representatives would meet and (most likely) cast their vote for Obama, being that the Democrats have the majority in that state's delegation. HOWEVER, keep in mind that Arkansas is heavily favored to go for McCain on November 4. So if these delegates voted for Obama they would be essentially voting AGAINST the will of their constituents. This scenario is evident in at least 15 other states as well.
In addition, if a state has an equal number of Democrat and Republican representatives and their vote results in a tie, that state will ABSTAIN from a vote on the president.
So what does all this mean? In all likelihood it means that Barack Obama would probably emerge as the president in the event of a 269-269 tie, but it is FAR from certain. There are still a number of scenarios in which John McCain could be declared the winner. In reality it is anyone's guess.
Another important component to keep in mind in the event of a 269-269 tie is that the SENATE will vote for the V.P. Being that the Democrats are favored to pick up a couple of seats in the Senate it is likely that they would vote for Biden, however, this is far from a guarantee. Keep in mind that senators may end up voting with the masses they represent, so as not to upset their constituents. Also, Joe Lieberman (an Independent) is likely to go with the Republicans on this one. In the event of a tie in the Senate, we must remember that the current V.P. (Dick Cheney) would cast the tie-breaking vote, which would in all likelihood go Republican.
Again, what does this mean? It means that there is a possibility of having a MIXED presidential ticket in the event of a 269-269 tie. We could end up seeing an Obama/Palin or a McCain/Biden White House.
One more wrench to throw into the equation: if the vote in the House of Representatives for president ends in a tie (or gridlock) the 12th Amendment stipulates that the Senate would then elect an INTERIM PRESIDENT from their V.P. selection, who would then serve for two years until the next HOR convened in the following election (2010). This means that if the HOR ends in a tie or gridlock, we could have Joe Biden or Sarah Palin end up serving a two-year term as President of the United States.
Think this is all a bit crazy or that maybe I am making it up? It is ALL in the 12th Amendment.
So how did we end up like this in the first place? It all goes back to the 1800 presidential election between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Back then there was no such thing as a presidential "ticket," which meant that the candidate with the second most electoral votes became the V.P. In 1800, Jefferson was the clear winner over presidential incumbent, John Adams. However, the electors (who had 2 votes instead of one) also accidentally gave Aaron Burr (who was intended to be Jefferson's V.P.) the same amount of votes. As a result, the election went to the House, where delegates loyal to Adams tried to get Burr placed in the White House over Jefferson. In the end, Jefferson won out, but only after months of controversy. As a result, the 12th Amendment was created, which was supposed to clean up the mess. Only time will tell if the 12th Amendment ends up CREATING a new mess in the 21st Century!!!
Here is an interesting Youtube video that helps explain this mess: