Print Edition: October 31, 2012
With just days until the American population goes to the polls to decide who will be the next leader of the free world, your favourite two eccentric billionaires and NASCAR enthusiasts—Nick Ubels and Sean Evans—take us through the drama that could ensue from a tie on November 6.
Nick: Well Sean, things are certainly getting down to the wire in this year’s Presidential contest. By the time this gets to print, it will be only six days until Americans who haven’t voted early have the last chance to cast their ballot. Both camps are polling steadily at 47 per cent, but the picture skews a little bit in Obama’s favour when that split is broken up according to the complicated, and some would say distinctly undemocratic electoral college system where state-by-state victory is tabulated into a final score.
Most states are clearly leaning red or blue, meaning the election will ultimately come down to a few key swing states. If Romney can take Colorado, Florida and Virginia, it’s going to be an incredibly close election. Just how close? Depending on the combination of states that go to Romney and Obama, it’s mathematically possible the election could end in a tie.
*Cue dramatic music*
Sean: Before images of co-presidents Obama and Romney fighting for desk space in the oval office jump to mind, let me explain what would (likely) happen in the months following the election. If the electoral college vote were to come to a tie, the newly-elected House of Representatives would have the right and responsibility to break the tie. Each state delegation (comprised of all the members of congress from each state) would be given one vote – meaning the massive California would have the same say as tiny Rhode Island. A vote of this nature would almost certainly result in a Romney presidency, as the Republican party is stronger across a greater number of states than the Democrats (think of all those states in the centre of the country). As disappointing as that result would be for Democrats, is there reason for them to have some optimism, Nick?
Nick: In fact there is, Sean. In the unspeakably ludicrous event of a tie, the Senate would vote to determine the new Vice-President. Unless there are some massive, and unexpected changes to the make-up of the Senate in November, the Democrats who control that legislative body will decide whether Biden or Ryan would take office. In the event of a Senate tie, Biden himself would cast the deciding vote as sitting VP.
A House/Senate decision also assumes that there are no “faithless” electors in the event of a presumed tie. Republicans and Democrats alike select people they think will tow the party line and vote according to their state’s pledge in the electoral college meeting in December. Yet in the past 16 elections, there have been at least nine “faithless” electors who have ultimately cast their vote for someone else. Usually, these minor discrepancies do not amount to any changes in the final result, but in an election as tight as this, and with the Presidency all but set to go to Romney if the Republican House were to decide, you can bet Democrats would be campaigning hard to convince a few Republican electors to switch sides.
A Romney-Biden White House would either usher in a vibrant era of bipartisanship, or more likely result in four years of spectacular deadlock never before seen in the history of American politics.
Sean: I observe politics like I watch NASCAR. I am all about the flaming car crash and to put it mildly, a Romney-Biden Presidency would be the flaming car crash of the century (note: Biden would understand the NASCAR metaphor)
Nick: You watch NASCAR? Interesting you should use that analogy. Kelly Oxford recently tweeted that “Canadians watch U.S. politics like Americans watch Honey Boo Boo.” We’re fascinated by trainwrecks.
Sean: Exactly, and because we watch from a distance, we can take solace in the fact that it probably will not dramatically impact our lives. All that said, were this insane scenario actually to play out, it would have the potential to dramatically change the way that Americans elect their President. Many have suggested that this could spell the end of the baffling electoral college system that has allowed a number of presidents, including George W. Bush, to be elected while losing the popular vote.
In my mind, if this were to bring about some change in the system, it would be worth it. Heck, even if it didn’t, it would still be worth it. Bring on the flaming car wrecks.
Nick: Here, here! Sometimes it takes a crisis to fix a broken system.
And politics aside, it would be entertaining as hell.
Join Nick and Sean next week as they go undercover in the United States of America to talk with real Americans who are voting and campaigning in this election.