The Prospects for a Tie

With the current projections for a close election between George W. Bush and John Kerry on November 2, there are a large number of reasonable scenarios that result in no electoral majority (i.e. a tie). In the event of no electoral majority, the U.S. Constitution declares in Amendment XII that

“if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote”.

The Vice President is chosen by the Senate
“if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President;”

Below are fourteen maps, each with a 269-269 tie in the electoral college. These are permutations on changes to 12 states (OR, NV, AZ, NM, MN, WI, IA, OH, PA, WV, NH) and ME Congressional District 2. I’m certain that additional permutations are possible (for example, no scenarios below are shown with Kerry winning Missouri).

Tie Map 1 Tie Map 2
Tie Map 3 Tie Map 4
Tie Map 5 Tie Map 6
Tie Map 7 Tie Map 8
Tie Map 9 Tie Map 10
Tie Map 11 Tie Map 12
Tie Map 13 Tie Map 14

As a note, Congress could easily eliminate no electoral majority scenarios in future elections (due to a tie) by changing the size of the House of Representatives to an even number (edited due to error pointed out by Dennis).

17 thoughts on “The Prospects for a Tie

  1. Dennis

    The House of Reps is an odd number — 435. We get an even number of electoral votes because of the constitutional amendment that gives DC 3 electoral votes (reading the amendment, that could change, but it’s very unlikely).

    Congress would need to change the size of the House to even to make the electoral college an odd number 3 DC + 100 senators = odd number + even # = odd number.

    Of course, we could still get no majority scenarios with minor party candidates!

  2. Dave

    Thanks Dennis. Correct – I should have stated that the number of representatives in congress would need to change to an even number.

  3. Steve

    All well and good, although having the House decide the president after SCOTUS chose the last might juct cause the peasnts to pick up pitchforks and torches. HAHA.

    This is particularly intriguing when one considers that it is the current House and not the incoming memebership which would decide. Let’s say that Kerry wins the popular vote, and his coattails change the balance of power on say three state delegations and it tums the Dems now have the majority of 26 delegations. but Currently the GOP holds 28 delegation. What great theatre that would be!!!

  4. Andrew

    It’s the incoming House that would decide. The new representatives take office on January 3. The electoral votes are counted on January 6.

  5. Ryer

    Gentlemen, I think all of you may be missing the point.

    Please note this excerpt from the Constitution in Dave’s initial post: “But in choosing the President, the vote shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having ONE vote.”

    Translation: The Democrats better pray there isn’t a tie in the Electoral College (or pray that a lot of Republican House members would betray their party if there were).

    At present, the Republicans control 29 state delegations, the Democrats 18, and 3 are evenly divided. Because of the Texas redistricting, the GOP’s number after November 2 is likely to be at least 30. Even worse for the Democrats, their at-large seats in South Dakota and North Dakota are being seriously contested. There is a very slim possibility the Democrats could gain the majority in Louisiana, but only if all three of the seriously contested House races in that state go their way (and they are defending two of those three seats).

    Few of these state delegations are closely divided. The wonders of redistricting means that the breakdown of the state delegations are not likely to change in sufficient number to alter the partisan majority in any states, other than the two Dakotas.

    Of the three states that have divided delegations, one of them, Mississippi, has a Democrat Representative (Gene Taylor) who might very well vote for Bush, putting that state in the GOP column.

    If there is a tie in the Electoral College, here’s my prediction for the vote for President by the House of Representatives:

    Bush: 32
    [AL, AK, AZ, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, ID, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, MI, MS, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, NM, NC, OH, OK, PA, SC, SD, TX, VT, VA, WY]

    Kerry: 16
    [AR, CA, HI, IL, ME, MD, MA, NJ, NY, ND, OR, RI, TN, VT, WA, WV]

    Not voting: 2
    [MN, WI]

  6. Ryer

    [Abbreviation error in previous post: I mistakenly typed Utah (UT) as “VT” under Bush’s total for my House vote prediction.]

  7. James

    The tie scenario above, where WV and NH switch to Kerry, but nothing else changes from 2000: I think that this is the most probable tie scenario. And actually a fairly probable scenario overall. Kerry basically needs a breakthrough in Florida, Ohio, or Missouri.

  8. Greg

    What about the Vice Presidency? It is possible, however, unlikly, that the Democrats could retake the Senate. If this were to happen along with an electoral tie, Bush would likely be chosen president as inicated in Ryer’s scenerio, but is it possible that Edwards would be elected VP by the senate? Currently, the Senate has 51 Republicans, 48 Democrats, and on independant (leans Democrat). Assuming they will vote on party lines, the Senators not running for reelection would make the score:
    Cheney: 36
    Edwards: 29
    That means the Democrats would have to win 22 of the contested seats to get a majority. In the case of a 50-50 tie, I believe Cheney can cast the tie-breaking vote, but I’m not positive about this. I’ll have to take a look at the constitution. I think it would be an interesting scenerio to have a VP from a different party than the President, especially with an evenly divided Senate.

  9. Ryer

    The answer to Greg’s question about the sitting Vice President being able to break a tie by voting for himself to be Vice President is “yes”. Consequently, the Democrats would likely have to hold 51 seats in the U.S. Senate to win the Vice Presidency in an Electoral College tie, whereas the GOP would only need to secure 50 seats.
    Ah, the advantages of incumbency!

  10. Andrew

    I’ve gone over all of the congressional races. The best-case scenario for the Republicans would give them the majority of representatives for 35 states; the best-case scenario for the Democrats would give them the majority of representatives for 30 states, plus Vermont (where independent Bernie Sanders caucuses with the Democrats). So if it looks like a tie is possible, we’ll have to watch the House.

  11. Ryer

    Andrew, I am very anxious to see the state-by-state delegation breakdown that brought you to the conclusion that the Democrats could hold a majority in 30 state delegations. I don’t think even the most optimistic at the DCCC who consider it possible for Democrats to hold a majority (26) of the state delegations on January 6, 2005. I’d really like to see the specifics of your state-by-state analysis that gets the Democrats to even 25.

  12. Andrew

    I used the Congressional Quarterly risk ratings (available through the link above). For each party, I defined the “best possible scenario” to be one in which they took every seat that was not “safe” for their opponent–even seats where the other side is favored.

    As an example, Pennsylvania:
    9 seats Safe Republican
    2 seats Republican Favored
    1 seat Leans Republican
    1 seat Leans Democratic
    1 seat Democrat Favored
    5 seats Safe Democrat

    In the best case scenario for the Democrats, they would take their 5 safe seats, the one where they are favored, the one leaning their way, the one leaning Republican, and the two where Republicans are favored. The Republicans would keep their 9 safe seats: Democrats 10, Republicans 9.

  13. Ryer

    Now I see the problem. I think you’d be well advised to look a little more closely at their standards for the “favored” category and the seats they classify as such. You’ll find that the likelihood of any of those seats switching parties would be akin to San Francisco voting for Bush. Also, I strongly recommend you utilize Campaigns & Elections “Political Oddsmaker” to supplement the information from CQ when determining which seats are actually in play.

  14. Andrew

    I don’t think it’s so much a problem as it is a difference of opinion as to what “best possible scenario” means.

    Anyway, thanks for the heads-up on “Political Oddsmaker”.

  15. Kevin

    If any of the “favored” states DID switch, it would likely be as part of a landslide victory for one side or the other with the unfavored party enjoying the coattails.

    In the case of a 269-269 tie, I doubt there would be that much switching.

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