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If Romney and Obama each ended up with 269 electoral votes: Will U.S. see Romney-Biden administration?

Washington, Nov. 4 -- The closeness of the election, Obama and Romney in a neck and neck contest, most nationwide and local polls predicting a photo finish outcome and most political pundits and analyst expect both candidates to be at the same time at the finish line, there is an unsettled notion in the political atmosphere just three days away from the presidential poll that Democratic Barack Obama and republican Mitt Romney will each end up with 269 electoral votes bringing a crisis in America's governance.

Every four years, on the Tuesday following the first Monday of November, millions of U.S. citizens go to local voting booths to elect, among other officials, the next president and vice president of their country. Their votes will be recorded and counted, and winners will be declared. But the results of the popular vote are not guaranteed to stand because the Electoral College has not cast its vote.

Each state has a number of electors equal to the number of its U.S. senators plus the number of its U.S. representatives. Currently, the Electoral College includes 538 electors, 535 for the total number of congressional members, and three who represent Washington, D.C., as allowed by the 23rd Amendment. On the Monday following the second Wednesday in December, the electors of each state meet in their respective state capitals to officially cast their votes for president and vice president. These votes are then sealed and sent to the president of the Senate, who on January 6th opens and reads the votes in the presence of both houses of Congress. The winner is sworn into office at noon on January 20th.

In each state, whichever party garners a majority of popular votes, regardless of how narrow the margin, wins all the electoral votes.

In all, there are 538 electoral votes and the number given to each state reflects the sum of the representatives and senators it sends to Congress. It takes 270 or more electoral college votes to win the election.

If both Obama and Romney each end up with 269 electoral votes, what's next?

San Francisco Chronicle opines "But the truly egregious flaws in the Electoral College would be exposed if Romney and Obama each ended up with 269 electoral votes - which polls suggest is within the realm of possibility, however remote."

Suppose President Obama wins all of the electoral votes from (1) all of the Northeastern states except New Hampshire; (2) Maryland, Delaware, the District of Columbia, and Virginia; (3) all of the states that border on the Pacific Ocean except Alaska; and (4) New Mexico, Colorado, Minnesota, Illinois, and Michigan. Assume also that Governor Romney wins all of the electoral votes in the remaining 30 states. The results? A 269 to 269 tie, in terms of electoral votes.

Here is the mechanism under the U.S. Constitution:

Under the terms of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution, the newly elected House of Representatives, which took office on January 3, will then vote to elect a President. Under the 12th Amendment, Congress is required to choose from the three candidates with the highest total of electoral votes from among those receiving electoral votes. Since under this scenario, only Romney and Obama receive electoral votes, the House would have to choose either Romney or Obama.

Under the terms of the Amendment, each state has a single vote, which is determined by how a majority of that state's Representatives vote. This means that both Alaska and California would have the same one vote, and 26 votes would be necessary to elect a president.

Because Republicans hold a majority in 33 House delegations, Romney would win. In November's election, it seems unlikely that the Republican Party will control fewer than 26 state delegations in the new Congress.

All 435 Members of the House of Representatives have to face re-election every two years and one third (33) of the Senate every six years.

The 12th Amendment also contains a quorum requirement that dictates that representatives from at least two thirds of the states (currently 34 states) have to be present and voting for the election to be valid. In theory, one political party could prevent the election of a president by boycotting the House vote, but that strategy would work only if the boycotting party included in its ranks the entire Congressional delegations of 17 states.

That is unlikely to happen; in the current Congress, the Republicans unanimously control only 9 state delegations and the Democrats only 7. Hence, if all the House Democrats were to boycott the election, Romney would be elected by a vote of 43 states to none. Similarly, if all the Republicans were to absent themselves from the House chamber, Obama would win by a vote of 41-0. In either case, the quorum requirement would be met.

While the House of Representatives is choosing the new President, the Senate is charged by the 12th Amendment with electing the Vice-President from the top two finishers. In this election, each Senator gets one vote (and thus, unlike in the House, there is no direct voting by state). The current Senate line-up of 51 Democrats, 47 Republicans, and 2 (Democrat-leaning) independents would point toward the election of Joe Biden over Paul Ryan. Of course, that balance could change as a result of the November 2012 elections, but according to credible pollsters and political observers that is most unlikely.

If by chance the vote splits 50 to 50 between the two candidates, Senate President Joe Biden (who will still be Vice President until January 20, 2013, no matter what happens in the fall election) could then vote (presumably for himself) to break the tie. If the House proved unable to elect a new president by January 20, the new Vice-President would assume the office of President until the House finally made a decision.

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Publication:Asian Tribune (India)
Date:Nov 4, 2012
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