OK. The Rs and Ds have spent part of the last few weeks at their respective conventions telling us all how great their respective candidates are. And Labor Day, the traditional kickoff time for campaigns, has come and gone. So, now the real presidential sweepstakes fun starts. Perhaps you’ve already noticed an uptick in TV and radio commercials touting either the benefit of a nominee (if produced by supporters) or the devil-like tendencies of one (if produced by the opposition). Here’s a synopsis of what you’ll hear for the next two months: “Biden’s a Bum,” “Trump’s a Tyrant,” “Biden’s the Best,” “Trump’s Terrific.” (Hope that saves you some viewing time.)
Thus far, it seems as if the mud is flying fast and thick. Who knows if it’s sticking anywhere?
Alas, nothing’s going to get saner (or cleaner) as we march toward Election Day 2020. Given the enormous amounts of money campaigns are able to raise today, it would come as no surprise if every commercial break from about Oct. 1 on is one political ad after another. Especially if you’re lucky enough, as we are in Georgia, to have not one, but two Senate races going on simultaneously with the presidential circus. (Don’t be jealous. It’s not a high honor.)
One of the many interesting aspects about this upcoming election for president (and they are legion) is the fact that groundwork is already being laid for the “what-ifs?” As in, what if there isn’t a clear Electoral College winner on Nov. 3? What if irregularities in absentee or mail-in voting occur? What if chads dangle in Florida? What if “voters” in Moscow or Beijing start appearing on tabulated results? What if nobody shows up? (Not likely.)
You think things are messed up now? Unfortunately, to quote legendary entertainer George M. Cohan, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.” Those of a certain age will remember the Florida falderol in 2000. Those machinations could well be considered tame compared to the 2020 possibilities. (Which would surprise no one, given how the rest of the year has gone so far.)
Having no clear winner could open up some really interesting scenarios. The good ol’ U.S. Constitution does have a few things to say on the issue. For one, somebody has to emerge with 270 Electoral College votes. As we’ve seen from a couple of recent elections, it doesn’t matter what the popular vote is, just the EC. And those electoral votes have to be sent to Congress for ratification of the election by Dec. 14 this year.
Prognosticators seem to believe this election will be close. So, what if a few of the “must have” states for either candidate aren’t able to send in their vote totals on time and neither Trump nor Biden attain the necessary 270 number?
Well, from what I’ve seen, stalemated elections end up in the House of Representatives. It’s happened before. In 1800, Thomas Jefferson needed 36 ballots to be elected (with Aaron Burr as his vice president) over incumbent John Adams. And in 1824, the House voted John Quincy Adams president even though Andrew Jackson got more popular votes. (Jackson defeated Adams four years later rather handily, by the way.)
Should history repeat itself, one thing to remember is that it isn’t the current Representatives in the House that would elect the next president. It’s the new ones elected in November and seated in January. And here’s the kicker: The vote isn’t like a regular one. Each state delegation gets one, count ’em, one vote. So, California, with 53 congresspersons, and North Dakota, with one Congressional Representative, each only get one vote.
Right now, according to extensive research, Republicans control more state delegations than Democrats. But, of course, that could change come November.
But what if there’s a 25-25 tie in the House? Well, then the Senate gets to play the game. In the event of a tie, the vice president-elect becomes the new president. And the Senate chooses that person. However, unlike in the House, each of the 100 senators gets an individual vote. Given the current Senate makeup, Mike Pence would become president since there are more Republican senators than Democrat ones.
Thus, as usual, elections have consequences. So, if you haven’t registered to vote yet, now might be a good time to do so. Oh, one final thought. If the House of Representatives gets to pick the next chief executive, the state delegations can only choose from the top three Nov. 3 presidential vote-getters. My question is, suppose besides Trump and Biden, the third leading contender is “None of the Above?”