What if no one gets 270 electoral votes?

Most of the electoral vote counters have swung in Barack Obama’s favor during the past week, but it still looks as if the presidential election will be close. In fact, there are at least two plausible scenarios for the candidates tying at 269 electoral votes each. That would happen if Obama won all the states John Kerry won in 2004, plus Iowa, New Mexico and Nevada, or if Obama won all the Kerry states except for New Hampshire, plus Iowa, New Mexico and Colorado.

The Constitution stipulates that the House of Representatives picks the president if no candidate wins 270 electoral votes, while the Senate picks the vice president. But it’s not a simple vote of the House members; they vote by state delegation.

I’ve been wondering how this would play out, and today I came across this excellent post at the Campaign Diaries blog that analyzes the chances for either Obama or McCain to win the necessary 26 state delegations.

Before I read that post I hadn’t realized that this scenario could happen even if the electoral college splits 270-268, if a “faithless elector” switches his or her vote away from the winner.

I encourage you to click through and read the whole post, but the Cliff’s Notes version is that Obama appears to have a better chance of winning 26 state delegations in the House than McCain does. It’s also possible that neither presidential candidate could win 26 state delegations:

What would happen then? Well, the 12th amendment states that if by the fourth of March the House has not agreed on a candidate, the vice-president would become president. And given that Senate Democrats would have long already elevated Joe Biden to the vice-presidency, that could mean a Biden Administration.

The funny thing is, I think I would prefer President Biden to either Obama or McCain. But let’s hope Obama wins with a clear mandate on November 4.

  • I assume

    by your comment that the Senate vote is a majority type one. This could be a very interesting and historical election.

    I like you hope that Obama wins with a clear mandate.

  • Decisive Elections with the National Popular Vote bill

    The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    Every vote would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections.

    The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes-that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    So there would never be a tie in the electoral vote, because the compact always represents a bloc consisting of a majority of the electoral votes. Thus, an election for President would never be thrown into the House of Representatives (with each state casting one vote) and an election for Vice President would never be thrown into the Senate (with each Senator casting one vote).

    The National Popular Vote bill has passed 21 state legislative chambers, including one house in Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, North Carolina, and Washington, and both houses in California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and Maryland. These four states possess 50 electoral votes – 19% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.

    See http://www.NationalPopularVote…  

    susan

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