Electoral College tie would expose ridiculous system
Published: Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 30, 2012 22:10
With the election coming soon, everyone is talking about who they think is going to win the presidential race, with some even guessing who will get the electoral votes from each state. Personally, I hope Obama and Romney tie.
As is commonly known, the percentage of the popular vote that each candidate gets actually does not matter. What matters is whether they win a majority of the Electoral College. As each state receives the same number of Electoral College votes as it has members of Congress, and the District of Columbia gets three votes, there are a total of 538 votes. Once a candidate has locked down 270 votes, he's the next president.
Most of the time, the candidate with the most electoral votes also has the most popular votes. But due to the nature of the Electoral College, every once in a while its winner actually receives fewer votes than his opponent. This has happened in 1876, 1888, and most memorably, in 2000.
But this year, some pundits think that the candidates may actually tie. In an article entiteld, “An Electoral College tie – and what it would mean,” the Washington Post's Aaron Blake outlines dozens of scenarios where Obama and Romney could finish with 269 votes each. He claims that the most likely scenario is that “Obama wins New Hampshire, Ohio and Wisconsin, while Romney carries Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina and Virginia.”
What happens in the case of an Electoral College tie? The Twelfth Amendment outlines the process – the House of Representatives (the one taking office in January 2013) votes for the president, with each state delegation casting one vote together. The Senate then votes for the vice president, with each senator casting one vote. If current projections are accurate, Republicans will control the House and Democrats will control the Senate. With this method of choosing our leaders, a Romney-Biden administration is the most likely outcome as long as there are no backroom deals.
Now, I'm not saying I think a Romney-Biden administration would be preferable to one under Obama-Biden or Romney-Ryan. It may lead to a great deal of conflict and paralyze the government. Or it could lead to a refreshing amount of cooperation between the two major parties. As an Electoral College tie has never occurred, it's impossible to tell what would happen. But a split-party administration in the modern era would be incredibly interesting, to say the least.
But the real reason I hope there is an Electoral College tie is to demonstrate how crazy our current system is. While everyone knows about the Electoral College, and no one seems to actually like it, there has never been a widespread push for real reform. Almost everyone thinks the Electoral College is stupid, but few are passionate enough to do anything about it.
The Electoral College has a great deal of mildly negative effects. Under the current system, candidates from both major parties focus a majority of their efforts on swing states, where the election is close. Safe states for either party, including the heavily Democratic California and the heavily Republican Texas, are largely ignored by presidential campaigns.
This also creates inequalities in federal spending, which incumbents typically direct towards swing states in order to curry favor with the states' voters. Safe states, including Connecticut, lose out in this system and receive fewer federal dollars for contracts and other projects.
There is also the obvious problem with American citizens' votes carrying different weights. When the number of Electoral College votes per state is divided by the state's population, citizens' votes in densely populated states like Texas and Florida are worth less than 1/3 the votes of citizens in states like Wyoming or Vermont. It's common sense, and a core tenet of our national values, that everyone's vote should count the same.
An Electoral College tie would be an unprecedented event in American history. While it may lead to four years of conflict in the White House, it could also lead to the much-needed abolition of the Electoral College. And that would be worth it.