Monday, October 6, 2008

Weekly Opinion/Editorial
By Steve Fair

Four weeks from now, it will be over. The 2008 General Election will be in the past. We will have elected a new President or perhaps not. According to several political pundits, a tie in the Electoral College could result this year. The country is pretty evenly divided. On Fox News Sunday, Karl Rove said, “thirty nine state polls released in the first three days of October have given Barrack Obama his first lead over the magic number of 270 since mid-July. Minnesota and New Hampshire both moved from toss-up to Obama, giving him 273 electoral votes to McCain’s 163, with `02 votes remaining as a toss-up.” Rove went on to say, “This race is susceptible to rapid changes, so no definite prediction is possible.”

In a very possible scenario, John McCain could win Virginia, New Hampshire, Florida and Ohio, but lose Pennsylvania, Colorado, New Mexico and Iowa to Obama. That would give each candidate 269 electoral votes. What happens then?

Under the U.S. Constitution, the House of Representatives would then decide the election when it meets in January, with each state getting one vote- no matter its size- to break the tie. Democrats have the majority of Representatives in twenty-seven states; Republicans twenty-one and two states are equal. Most likely, if the electoral vote were tied, Obama would become President, but that’s not a certainty.

Obama and McCain could lobby the Electoral College voters to switch their support. Twenty-four states have laws that bind their electors to the results of the general election, but twenty-six do not. That means an elector could switch- it’s happened before, but never when it affected the outcome of an election.

The US Senate picks the Vice President if there is a tie. It’s possible the House could pick McCain and the Senate Biden. If the House has not made up their mind by January 20th when President Bush leaves office, the Vice President selected by the Senate could serve as President until the House decides who the President is. In a very scary scenario, House Speaker Nancy Peolsi could become “acting” President if neither chamber decides before January 20th, but she would have to resign as speaker.

The last time the US House decided a Presidential election was in 1824 when John Quincy Adams was named the President. His opponent who would later become President- Andrew Jackson had gotten ten percent more of the popular vote than Adams, but did not get a majority of the electoral vote because there were four candidates in the race. When the race was thrown in the House of Representatives, thirteen sided with Adams and only seven with Jackson. One of the four candidates was Henry Clay, the sitting Speaker of the House. Only the top three candidates in the electoral vote are to be considered by the House and Clay had finished fourth.

Clay detested Andrew Jackson and had said of him, “I cannot believe that killing 2,500 Englishmen at New Orleans qualifies him for the various difficult and complicated duties of President.” Clay was also an ally of Adams, so he threw his support to him. For his loyalty, he was named Secretary of State. All of the Presidents prior to 1828 had been Secretary of State, so Jackson claimed the two had made a “Corrupt Bargain.” Jackson claimed being the SOS would give Clay a leg up in the 1828 election. Old Hickory was elected in 1828 using the strategy that Clay had made a “corrupt bargain.”

Fast forward 184 years and we could have a similar situation. It’s not likely the 2008 election will result in a tie, but it could happen. The country is evenly divided. Obama and Pelosi could arrange another “corrupt bargain.”

The next four weeks will be very interesting. If Obama is able to keep his supporters energized and the “perceived” terrible state of the economy in the news, he will likely be President.

If calm is restored and people make their decision based on the facts and vote for the candidate who is the most qualified, John McCain will be elected. Rest assured the difference in leadership and vision between these two candidates is dramatically different. Not since Nixon and McGovern have we had such a dramatic difference in political philosophy between two Presidential candidates

In years past, there was a TV show called Kung Fu about a Shaolin priest named Chang Caine who was living in the old west. When Caine had to make an important decision, he would flashback to his training as a young child with his mentors Po and Kan. Po, who affectionately called Caine “grasshopper”, would often tell him- “Choose wisely grasshopper.” Americans would be well advised to take Po’s advice on November 4th.


S said...

The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

Every vote would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections.

The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes-that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

So there would never be a tie in the electoral vote, because the compact always represents a bloc consisting of a majority of the electoral votes. Thus, an election for President would never be thrown into the House of Representatives (with each state casting one vote) and an election for Vice President would never be thrown into the Senate (with each Senator casting one vote).

The National Popular Vote bill has passed 21 state legislative chambers, including one house in Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, North Carolina, and Washington, and both houses in California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and Maryland. These four states possess 50 electoral votes - 19% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.


Steve Fair is a political activist. said...

I believe our founding fathers were wise in NOT having the President/Vice President elected by popular vote. Using the electorial college system contributes to the cohesiveness of the country by requiring a distribution of popular support to be elected president. That in effect enhances the status of minority interests in regional areas of the country.

Currently Oklahoma and states of similar populaton rarely see a Presdiental candidate after Labor Day- from either party. If we went to a popular vote system, small states would be taken for granted even more and the candidate would FISH WHERE THE FISH ARE and spend their time in the more densely populated states. This election cycle is a classic illustration of why we should NOT go to a popular vote system- New Mexico and Nevada are "battleground" states and are very relevant in this election. Under your system, they wouldn't be a blip on the radar screen.

I appreciate your comments and your scholarly presentation of the popular vote proposal, but I don't happen to agree with it.

Thanks for reading.