As my colleague Dennis DiClaudio frequently notes, the universe is a cold and unforgiving place, indifferent to our plans and desires.
Certainly, that's the impression I get when human impersonator Mitt Romney has a double-digit lead in nationwide polls over his Republican opponents/broadly-sketched comic book villains. An Obama versus Romney general election? Boring!
But rarely is the question asked, what if this ho-hum electoral match-up were actually part of an inexorable march toward the destruction of all civilization? Consider this: A contest between a well-funded, relatively sane challenger and an incumbent president presiding over poor macroeconomic performance is bound to be highly competitive. In fact, there are a number of plausible scenarios in which the electoral college vote would resolve in a 269-269 tie. For example, were Obama to maintain New Mexico, Colorado and Virginia in his column, while Romney captured New Hampshire, Florida, Ohio, Nevada, and North Carolina, the electoral college would prove to be pretty stupid for a college and produce no winner.
Fortunately, the Founding Fathers, who art in heaven, created a rational and foolproof resolution to this easily foreseen event.
Just kidding! In the event that neither candidates receives at least 270 electoral votes, the election will be thrown to the incoming members of the House of Representatives, who will vote by state-delegation, with each state allotted one vote. Consider then, that the generic congressional ballot is currently producing a near-tie between Democrats and Republicans. And that precedents from the elections of 1800 and 1824 suggest split state delegations would not be allowed to cast "half-votes." Instead, states evenly divided between Democratic and Republican Members of Congress would be forced to abstain, possibly denying any candidate a 26-state majority necessary for victory.
Good job, Article II and 12th Amendment! Now we have no President.
A presidential vacancy would be filled by the Vice President, but it would be up to the incoming Senate to decide who that Vice President would be. A Republican majority might well give us Acting President Michelle Bachmanm or Rick Perry, so that's one way to bring upon the End Times. Alternatively, an evenly divided Senate may not produce a majority either, especially since it's unclear if the outgoing President of the Senate — Joe Biden — would be allowed to cast a tie-breaking vote.
Technically, the Speaker of the House would be next in line for the presidency, but prominent legal scholars have concluded that "the best reading of the Constitution's text, history, and structure excludes federal legislators from the line of presidential succession." More likely, the country would by this point would have degenerated into an anarchic hellscape, where a typical day is spent hoarding gold ingots and polishing one's rifle collection. Or, as Ron Paul supporters call it, Tuesday.
Sleep tight, everyone!
(Image via 270 to Win)
Tags: Barack Obama, Constitution, Electoral College, Mitt Romney