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July 10th, 2012 12:20 pm
More on an Electoral College Tie

Troy and I  have been having an interesting discussion of how it is not at all implausible (or, to avoid the double negative, it is definitely plausible) for the presidential election to end in a 269-269 tie, thus throwing the election to the House of Representatives, which only narrowly would be likely to favor Romney. Now comes Eric McPike at Real Clear Politics to lay out a few other scenarios for a tie — in other words, further supporting the theory Troy and I have been touting.

Interestingly, though, two of McPike’s various scenarios would envision one of Nebraska’s Electoral votes to go to Obama again: “But then subtract from the Republican ticket the single electoral vote Obama won in Nebraska due to the anamolous way the Cornhusker State allocates its five electoral votes, and there would be a rare electoral tie that would send the election to the House of Representatives.”

To me, that seems highly unlikely. That vote was surely an anomaly, due to a bizarrely Democratic year. I wonder if anybody has any polling data suggesting that that congressional district would even be close. I doubt it.

Nonetheless, the fact remains that there are so many different ways to reach a tie that it behooves both sides to start dossiers on every House member to figure if any of them might be moved, under certain circumstances, to vote against their party, or to abstain. In the House, the vote is done not by individual member, but by state delegation.  A state like Minnesota, with four Republicans and four Democrats, would presumably vote “present” unless a member didn’t vote for his/her own party’s nominee. By my armchair projections, Romney would probably win the support of about 28 delegations (26 are needed to win) — but several of those delegations would be by one-vote margins, meaning that if my projection is slightly off, or if a Member could be convinced to switch parties or to abstain, the margin would be even smaller.

How could this happen? Well, imagine a 269-269 Electoral College tie, but with Obama building up such large margins in populous states like New York and California that he wins a clear popular-vote margin. Cue the Occupy movement to protest in favor of the House voting to ratify the popular vote rather than by party. Cue the media to overwhelmingly push that same notion. Now look at a few GOP House members who won by only narrow margins, but in districts carried by Obama, where the media message would be that they have a duty to vote with the majority of their constituents. Obviously, all of this could get very dicey indeed.

As it could well get dicey in the other direction if Romney wins the popular vote but the GOP loses more House seats than expected (via lots of people voting just to defeat Obama but then failing to vote in down-ballot races), and Democrats actually find they control a plurality of House delegations (with several tied).

All of which means that both campaigns ought to know darn well what makes each individual Member tick — what motivates each one, what pressures they succumb to. They should start the research now, just in case… because if indeed an Electoral College tie occurs, some Members might be moved to announce their positions quickly, and so both campaigns need to be able to contact all of the possible “swing” votes ASAP.

All of this could make the Bush-Gore fight appear, in retrospect, to have been child’s play.

And that is a very sobering thought.

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