electoral college, what if it’s a tie

So we all vote, we do the re-counts, we get thru the court battle and the Electoral College ends in a tie.  Who becomes President?

It’s very simple, and very complicated.

Although it was first addressed by Article II, if there were a tie in the Electoral College we would follow the process outlined in the 12th Amendment (ratified in 1804): “the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President” and “the Senate shall choose the Vice-President.”

The catch is that the votes in the House aren’t tallied by each representative: “the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote.” That means that all the representatives within a given state vote as a bloc, and each state has one vote. The majority of votes within that state bloc determine its vote.

elect2The votes in the Senate are cast by the individual senators.

That also means that with an even 50 votes in the House and 50 in the Senate (D.C. doesn’t get a vote), there is potential for yet another tie vote. But the 12th Amendment covers that too: “if the House of Representatives shall not choose a President whenever the right of choice shall devolve upon them, before the fourth day of March next following, then the Vice-President shall act as President, as in case of the death or other constitutional disability of the President.” This section was later superseded by the 20th Amendment, which moved the start of the new session of Congress from March to early January.

If the Senate is unable to break a tie for the vice president, according to the Presidential Succession Act of 1947, the speaker of the House serves as acting president.

Electors officially cast their votes in December, and the electoral votes are tallied in a joint session of Congress in January.

It would be the newly elected Congress that makes the tiebreaking vote, and with congressional elections equally in play it’s impossible to say for sure which way they’ll swing.

Exciting stuff.

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