Thursday, October 29, 2020




Let’s face it.  After the last four years and the exclamatory ending called Covid-19, we can’t imagine anything getting worse than what we have endured.  Right?




Blame it on the Founding Fathers, if you will, but if you’ve been wondering why 79 days exist between election day and the swearing in of the new Commander-in-Chief, it’s more than just organizing a vote in December by the Electoral College in case of an inappropriate and harmful choice by the country’s populace.  That vestigial process didn’t work well last time, but what if there were NO OUTCOME.  In other words, what if a tie in the popular vote too close to call and an actual tie in the Electoral College: 269 to 269 votes?  


I know, not probable, but, still, possible.  And after this year, well, why not?


And, believe it or not, the Founding Fathers and a later Amendment or two make that convoluted selection process of a new President and Vice President somewhat clear and slow-moving.  And the process indicates just how dreadfully important each down ballot for Senator or Representative in each state will be.  “Vote like your life depends on it?”  


While the polling may indicate a substantial lead for the Biden/Harris campaign right now, Biden campaign handlers warn that the election may be closer than anyone thinks; after all, they’ve seen a snake bite before.  And Tom Edsall in the New York Times indicates that data shows in some key states Republicans are registering to vote in numbers far greater than Democrats


Most of this nightmare emerges from an unsettling possibility reiterated by Elaine Kamarck in a review of the unlikely process for the Brookings Institute.  Here’s what happens:


“The Constitution is pretty clear on how this plays out. If there is no winner in the Electoral College, Article 2, Section 1, Clause 3 states that the decision goes to the House of Representatives while the Senate picks the vice president. But the voting in the House is different from the Senate. In the vote for vice president, each Senator has one vote. But in the House each state has only one vote for president—regardless of its size—and a presidential candidate needs 26 states to win.”  Illinois has, for instance 18 Representatives in the U. S. Congress – 13 Democratic and 5 Republican (at this time).  


“If the presidential race should end up in the House the outcome would depend on which party controls the state’s delegation. As it stands Republicans are in the majority, with control of 26 state delegations.  Democrats control 23 state delegations and one state, Pennsylvania, has a tied delegation: 9 Democrats and 9 Republicans. But the Congress is sworn in before the Electoral College votes are read out in the Senate. In the case of a tie it will be the next Congress not the current Congress that votes on the presidency, and a handful of 2020 congressional elections could decide the presidential election.”


The next Congress?  The battle that is taking place before us these last weeks and the next very few days.  But is it really likely?  Only in our recent lifetime has America had two elections where the winner of the popular vote did not become the President because of the Electoral College. And the danger in holding to an antique and obsolete notion of distrust for the people’s vote makes possible that this undermining of democratic processes could repeat again.  


Need something to watch carefully Tuesday evening?  Kamarck gives us several:


Pennsylvania: “Start with Pennsylvania, a state that is already getting outsized attention—it was very close in 2016 and looks to be close again. Since its congressional delegation is tied now, if Democrats hold their seats and win only one congressional seat they will control the delegation. According to the Cook Political Report the most likely seat to flip is Pennsylvania’s 10th Congressional District, located in the south central portion of Pennsylvania. The Republican incumbent Scott Perry is running against State Auditor General Eugene de Pasquale, a Democrat. The district has a PVI score of +6 Republican, meaning that in recent elections it tends to vote for Republicans. But recent polling suggests a neck and neck race.”


Florida: “Next is Florida where the Republicans have a one-seat advantage over the Democrats. If one seat switches from Republican to Democrat, control of the Florida delegation moves to Democrats. Democrats have to hold all the seats they have and pick up one seat. Their best chance is Florida’s 15thCongressional District, northeast of Tampa. It’s an open seat currently occupied by Ross Spano, who was defeated in the Republican primary. In the general election race Democrat Alan Cohn, a former ABC News anchor, is running against Republican Scott Franklin, a Navy veteran and city commissioner. Like Pennsylvania’s 10th Congressional District, Florida’s 15th tends to be Republican. But Cohn is running slightly behind Franklin and within the margin of error.”


A clear landslide on either side dampens any arguments moving the outcome toward this kind of scenario, although Trump will always be the wild card in the aftermath of dog whistle/electoral/judicial reviews of his outraged complaints.  And if Trump says it could go on for a very long time?  Well, he may be the last to have read the United States Constitution, but it’s a possibility: “What if the tied Electoral College race results in a tied race in the House of Representatives? The House keeps voting until someone gets 26 votes. If the House can’t elect a president by Inauguration Day, the person elected vice president by the Senate becomes the acting president until the House manages to select a president.”


And the House must continue its voting until it finally the deadlock finally breaks…until the deadlock finally breaks. 

So, grab your popcorn and handkerchief…or something decidedly stronger, and settle in for a long, long evening on Tuesday.


Wishing us all the best.  









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