Posted Friday, Oct. 19, 2012, at 3:27 PM
I'd been avoiding the "electoral college tie!" explainers because we all know how that crisis would end -- with the Republican House voting to make Mitt Romney president. But until I read Aaron Blake I'd forgotten the mind-melting stupidity with which the theoretical House vote is designed.
If somehow, though, we got to a 269-vote tie, the task of electing the president would fall to the House of Representatives — the new one that will assume office in January. According to the 12th Amendment, each state delegation would cast one vote, with the winner determined by whoever wins more states... Currently, the GOP has more members of Congress in 33 states, while Democrats have more in 16 states. One state — the great state of Minnesota — is split evenly.
If this was the summer of 1787, and you were given a notebook and a pen and a chance to design the least majoritarian way of deciding a tied election,* you couldn't do better with this. Let's say you live in Pennsylvania, for example. After a hard-fought campaign, Barack Obama basically does what the polls say he'll do, and takes the state by a 51-48 margin. The House meets to decide the election. Pennsylvania casts its one vote for... Mitt Romney. Thanks to gerrymandering, twelve of Pennsylvania's 18 districts are likely to be held by Republicans in the next Congress. Or let's say Mitt Romney wins New Hampshire while Democrats take back its two House seats. Same deal.
*The House would also cast the deciding vote in a three-candidate race where no one got more than 269 electoral votes.