Pollsters predicted a huge Biden win. Naysayers pointed out that Trump had a lot of silent voters and it could go down to the wire. However, if there’s a tie in the electoral collage we might be in for a very interesting time.
While there never has been a tie in the Electoral College for Presidential Elections but Hamilton fans will know there was a tie in 1800 that needed an amendment of the US Constitution.. That was of course for a Vice-Presidential candidate and not a president.
Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr tied, and the House of Representatives chose Jefferson. This led to a ratified 12th Commandment which required separate contest for offices of president and vice-president.
While statements from both camps suggest we could be doing the rounds of courts before getting an answer, there’s an outcome where the US might end up getting its oldest and first female President. To quote the great Ravi Shastri all three results are still possible – Trump, Biden or Pelosi.
The third outcome is highly unlikely but not outside the realm of possibility.
Incidentally, Donald Trump has already announced that he ‘won’ and would be going to the Supreme Court, the quirky nature of US politics means even Pelosi could end up as President. Here’s how it could go down.
The candidate who wins each state’s popular vote typically earns the state’s electors who meet on Dec 14 to cast votes. Both chambers of Congress met on Jan 6 to count the votes and name the winner. Normally, the Governors share the results in their respective states with Congress. However, there have been situations where the Governor and the state’s legislature submit different results. There’s no clarity whose result Congress will accept.
In 2000, Republican-controlled Florida legislature submitted its own electors before the Suprem Court ending the contest between Bush and Gore. In 1876, three states appointed ‘dueling electors’, which led to the Electoral Count Act in 1867. The ECA stated that each chamber would decide which state of ‘duelling electors to accept’.
Currently, the Republicans hold the Senate and Democrats have the House of Representatives. The electoral count will however be conducted by a new Congress which will be elected on Jan 6.
Another possibility is Pence, who’s Senate President, could attempt to throw out a state’s disputed electoral votes. It’s not clear whether the ECA would then require a 270 majority, much like say the way the house strength in Indian parliament or state assembly goes down during a floor vote if there are legislators meeting.
If neither manage a majority of electoral votes, it could trigger a ‘contingent election’ under the 12th Amendment of the Constitution. This would entail the House of Representatives choosing the next President and the Senate choosing the next Vice President.
How it works
- Every state delegation in the House gets a single vote.
- Before this election Republicans controlled 26 of the 50 state delegations, Democrats had 22; one is split evenly and another has seven, Democrats, six Republicans and a Libertarian.
- This is the current count
This will also happen if there’s a 269-269 electoral college tie after the election. However, there’s a strict deadline which is Jan 20 when the President’s term ends. If Congress is unable to declare a winner by then, the Presidential Succession Act, would mean the Speaker of the House becomes acting president.
That just happens to Nancy Pelosi, who went viral for sarcastically clapping against Trump. Not only Pelosi be the first woman POTUS, she’d – at the age of 80 – be the oldest one too. That’d be, a true twist in the tale.