What happens if there is a tie?

November 1st, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Real Clear Politics has the current Electoral College at 201 for Obama, 191 Romney and 146 tossups.  Romney has a 1% lead in the popular vote in the polls, but it is the Electoral College that counts. Each state has at least three electoral votes as they get one per Representative and one per Senator.

Now the tossups are:

  • Colorado 9
  • Florida 29
  • Iowa 6
  • Michigan 16
  • Nevada 6
  • New Hampshire 4
  • North Carolina 15
  • Ohio 18
  • Pennsylvania 20
  • Virgina 13
  • Wisconsin 10

Now lets say Obama wins Ohio 18, New Hampshire 4, Wisconsin 10, Michigan 16, and Pennsylvania 20. That takes him to 269 – the same as Romney would be with Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina, Virgina and Wisconsin.

So what happens?

Well nothing at all until Monday the 17th of December when the Electoral College meets. Except they don’t meet. They meet in their 50(51) state capitals and cast their votes. It is theortically possible for an Electoral College delegate to not vote for the ticket they promised to. This has happened sometimes, but never in a way to change an outcome. The reality is that presidential candidates choose their most dedicated supporters to be the Electoral College nominees for them – so if the election delivered a 269-269 split, then almost certainly the Electoral College would vote 269-269.

Now only if a candidate gets an absolute majority (270) do they get elected. The formal count is done on Sunday 6 January 2013 by Congress in joint session, with the Vice-President presiding.  If the results of a state are disputed (as in 2000) then an objection signed by a Representive and a Senator will cause both bodies to individually consider the objection. Both the House and Senate would need to uphold the objection for it to be valid. This has not happened (upholding an objection) in modern history.

If no candidate has 270, then the House of Representatives is tasked with electing a President. They have done this in 1801 and 1825. However the voting is not a normal majority, but one vote per state delegation. So each state delegation would caucus to determine their vote. It would be the new House that votes and its composition is unknown. But the current House has Republicans in the majority in 33 delegations, the Democrats in 15 and two are tied. So safe to say the House would vote Romney as President easily.

However Ryan may not be Vice-President. The Senate would elect the Vice-President with one vote per Senator and 51 needed. And the Democrats are at 73 at Intrade to retain the Senate, Republicans 19% and 10% for a tie. If the Democrats kept the majority they could re-elect Joe Biden as Vice-President and you would have a Romney-Biden Administration. I suspect in reality the Democrats would vote for Ryan if the House clearly elected Romney, and Romney won the popular vote.

Now what if the House (most unlikely) or the Senate (possible) were also tied. Well if no President is elected by 20 January, the VP would be Acting President. If no President or VP elected, then then Speaker of the House would become the Acting President.

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21 Responses to “What happens if there is a tie?”

  1. thedavincimode (6,633 comments) says:

    Is this a system to elect a President or a system to sell newspapers and produce lively conversation over the port and cigars?

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  2. Graeme Edgeler (3,282 comments) says:

    If the Senate is tied in a VeeP election, the President of Senate (one Joe Biden) may* get a casting vote:

    The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.

    *There may be a debate over whether the XII amendment overrides this for VeeP elections:

    the Senate shall choose the Vice-President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice

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  3. Graeme Edgeler (3,282 comments) says:

    There may also be a question over how a state delegation that is, for example, majority Republican, but which might vote for Obama in the Presidential election should vote. I don’t think it would make nearly enough of a difference, but that debate could be important.

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  4. scrubone (3,092 comments) says:

    Maybe I’m reading this wrong but you have Wisconsin twice.

    The wording is a little confusing.

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  5. Manolo (13,518 comments) says:

    DPF, you haven’t told us yet: who do you want to win the election? Romney or Obama?

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  6. Graeme Edgeler (3,282 comments) says:

    Manolo – DPF wants a tie, with a Romney Presidency, and a Biden Vice-Presidency :-)

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  7. Ed Snack (1,839 comments) says:

    Ain’t going to happen, Romney with at least 300, the mittmentum is real and despite the polls which almost invariably overstate the Democratic voter preference percentage. The issue now is whether Romney can take all of the swing states and extend the swing to places like Oregon.

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  8. Griff (7,404 comments) says:

    Obuma will win 250 to 233 and the gnashing of teeth will keep me amused for a couple of weeks :lol:
    The usa is fucked whoever wins

    DPF should do a post were we can all place our guess and the loesses can be the butt of jokes for years

    [DPF: He won't win 250 to 233 - you need 270 to win]

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  9. Neil (578 comments) says:

    I don’t believe there will be a tie. I think we should consider these implications.
    a. Undecideds will go 3-1 for the opposition candidate, Romney.Around 5-7% are still undecided, the final jobs report on Friday could be key – negative or neutral news will be bad for Obama.
    b. The polls taken so far have overestimated the Democratic numbers based on the 2008 turnout. Obama will not get out the vote like 2008.Many polls have been skewed to the Democratic side.
    c. Early voting so far is 50-50 between the two, Obama had a 15% lead back in 2008.
    d. Registration between the Democrats and Republicans is almost identical.
    e. The momentum of the campaign is favouring the GOP. A month again North Carolina,Virginia, New Hampshire and Florida were firmly in the Obama column. Romney leads those now. Now the toss ups are Colorado,Ohio(of course) and Nevada. What has happened that former relatively Democratic states like Wisconsin,Pennsylvania and Michigan are coming to play. Not one orginal safe Romney state is in play. The trend is towards the GOP.
    f. The US main street media and our own has a fetish for overstating Obama’s appeal. He in the end might end up like Jimmy Carter in 1980 against Ronald Reagan. Obama has little to run on, his negative attacks were destroyed in debate one.
    6. The key figure is Obama’s unfavourable numbers- no president has been elected with less than 50 % approval. Currently Obama is up 2 ,since the Sandy Hurricane, at 48.
    7. Enthusiasm is very high in the GOP. They want Obama out, getting rid of the amateur in the WH is essential.
    By the way I would vote for …….. The GOP has a great get out the vote programme in Ohio and Wisconsin
    A good read is Real Clear Politics.com which gives a balanced coverage. Forget about Political Wire,Politico,Dick Morris,Daily Kos,New York Times,Washington Post,Washington Times,MSNBC and Fox News, especially Sean Hannity.

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  10. questions (196 comments) says:

    Griff: “DPF should do a post were we can all place our guess and the loesses can be the butt of jokes for years”

    I do remember last time around Kiwi in America calling a win for the Panamanian a good week out last time around… he’s been strangely quiet this time?

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  11. Griff (7,404 comments) says:

    DPF’s poll is around fifty fifty
    The only media that is giving the republicans a win is fox
    I tuned in for the storm coverage and could not believe how openly biased the fox channel is. Some call MSM left leaning I would rate fox as openly extreme conservative.

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  12. scrubone (3,092 comments) says:

    Obuma will win 250 to 233 and the gnashing of teeth will keep me amused for a couple of weeks

    If Obama gets 250 he will have lost as you need 270 to win.

    It’s possible that Obama might win at this stage, and he’s got good odds in the prediction markets. But Mitt only needs to pick up a few percent in just a few states and he’s got it in the bag.

    Or you can ignore the polls and consider the fact that Mitt’s campaign has moved into states previously considered to be in Obama’s column, and Obama has followed. So both sides know that the momentum is in Mitt’s corner.

    Interesting fact I heard was that 90% of the people who were supporting Obama were convinced he was going to win even as he loses support.

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  13. Lindsay Addie (1,413 comments) says:

    Karl Rove analyses the numbers and makes his prediction:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204846304578090820229096046.html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_LEADTop

    My 5 cents worth is I think Rove has the margin about right by saying Romney wins the overall vote by 3%. I think Dick Morris is dreaming saying that Romney wins by 8%.

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  14. pq (728 comments) says:

    Obama at least 280 electoral votes including
    Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, likely Nevada and Colorado

    not Virginia, not North Carolina and not Florida

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  15. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    I’d like to see a race close enough for the courts to have a crack, a la Gore v Bush. That would be entertaining; even better would a scenario where the supreme court makes it a tie to kick off shenanigans like 1876.

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  16. Lee C (4,516 comments) says:

    Romney will be singing songs from Grease “Sandy – can’t you see, I’m in misery” come the day.

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  17. iMP (2,356 comments) says:

    I agree with Ed. and Neil
    • All polls assume 2008 Democrat turnout margins. Very wrong. 2012 will be Repub outlier, not Democrat.
    • Of early voters: Repubs up, Demos down (this is not 2008).
    • Romney is already ahead in Ohio.
    • Look at the trend since mid-Sept, Romney up, Obama down.
    • Romney leads 2/3 to 1/3 among Undecideds who will decide this election.
    • Look at the polls that ask things like who will handle economy best, Rpmney by a mile.
    • I think Romney will win comfortably, Dick Morris poll-guru agrees.
    • Benghazi will sink Obama
    • Tomorrows job figures (Fri in US) will be a factor with final Undecideds.

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  18. iMP (2,356 comments) says:

    THIS IS A REALLY GOOD PIECE DPF; a fascinating ‘what if.’ But a tie is unlikey in my view. I’ve critiqued your article here, with detailed reasons.

    http://conzervative.wordpress.com/2012/11/02/what-if-the-us-election-is-tied-calling-the-result/

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  19. chrisw76 (85 comments) says:

    Put me down as saying that due to the electoral college Obama will win re-election. I think there is a good possibility to that he may even loose the popular vote which would be interesting.

    Whatever happens, I just hope that the US Congress gets on with it once the election is over.

    @iMP You make a number of good points, but even if the associated accusations from the Benghazi kerfuffle that the White House ordered security decreased at that consulate were true, will have an effect either way. From this vantage point the only people who seemed most swayed by it are people that would never vote Democrat anyway.

    Cheers, Chris W.

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  20. East Wellington Superhero (1,151 comments) says:

    I predict a Romney win. I do not believe the polls reflect was will actually happen on the day, and the offset will favour Romney. Romney will get Iowa, Florida, Colorado, Ohio, New Hampshire but not Nevada. And not WI, MI, or PA.

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  21. BlairM (2,314 comments) says:

    The tie is certainly a possible scenario, but it hinges on Nevada going to Romney, and I am not sure Romney will win Nevada. We shall see.

    A 269 tie would be interesting. I suspect a few of the Romney electors would vote for Ron Paul to put him on the ballot (Congress chooses from the top three). And I would not guarantee that Biden would be VP in that scenario, should the Senate stay in Democratic hands. Either the electoral college, or the Senate, may vote in such a way as to get a compromise candidate in that role. Very likely that someone like Joe Lieberman would end up VP.

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