The great thing about the U.S. Constitution is that the Founding Fathers thought of everything: what to do with the Second Amendment if future people invented AK-47s, for instance. Ok so maybe they didn’t get that one, but they did spend a decent amount of time thinking through what-if scenarios and making sure the document would provide a roadmap for many generations of freak accidents and unlikely outcomes.
For instance: what to do if a presidential election results in a tie?
This year the issue has been getting particular attention because nationally the race is very close—Obama and Romney are polling within about a point of each other. While the New York Times’ poll guru Nate Silver is still laying odds at 70% of an Obama victory because of the way the electoral college votes are likely to fall, Rachel Maddow ran through an exercise last night that would put all the Founding Fathers’ brooding over what to do in the event of a tie to good use—and it actually doesn’t seem that unlikely.
You need 270 electoral college votes to win—right now Obama has 237 likely votes in the bank from blue states and Romney has 206 from red states. Among the swing states, if you give the likely Obama-leaners like Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, maybe Colorado to the president and give the others—Florida, Virginia, maybe Nevada—to Romney, it’s possible that the election could end up at an electoral college tie, 269 to 269.
In that case, the president gets chosen by the House of Representatives—but instead of voting weighted on population as determines the actual makeup of the House, each state gets just one vote and the Reps from that state have to decide their vote together. If that vote comes out a tie—25 to 25—guess who becomes president: Speaker (Weeper) of the House, the Orange Wonder John Boehner.
Also very weird is that the VP actually gets picked by the Senate in the case of electoral college tie, so if the House were Republican controlled and the Senate Democrat controlled, you’d probably actually end up with President Romney and his VP Joe Biden. Crazy, right?
My question is this: The Founding Fathers clearly spent a lot of time making all these rules. But if they were such geniuses why didn’t they avoid this whole problem by just making the number of votes in the electoral college an odd number? The whole electoral college vote number was an arbitrary device anyway, and if they’d just made the total number odd you could never have a tie.