No Electoral Majority – Then What?

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As if this election cycle has not been bizarre enough, what if come January 6, 2017 no one wins a majority of the Electoral College?

What happens if neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton reach the magic 270 votes from the electors of the 50 states and the District of Columbia?

Article II Section 1 of the US Constitution sets up the Electoral College and what to do in the event no candidate receives a majority of electors.

It is not that there is no precedence of nominees not reaching the requisite number in our 240-year history since proclaiming our independence from Great Britain.

Yet in each of those cases in history, it has not been a pretty affair.

Most recently, most of us can recall when this came close to happening in Election Year 2000 when sitting Vice President Al Gore won the popular vote to challenger George W. Bush as the Florida votes were in dispute.

In that situation, which Democrats refer to the election robbed and handed to Bush, the third branch of government, the Supreme Court, stepped in and decided along ideological lines (conservative versus liberal) that Florida went to the Bush column.

Crisis averted.

The first instance took place shortly after the birth of the nation in 1800. Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, won as Congress voted to make him the nation’s third President.

However, the opposition Federalist Party members of the House of Representatives considered giving the presidency to his vice presidential pick, Aaron Burr, instead.

The Federalists had backed John Adams for a second term.

What triggered the House stepping in to decide the election was that the Democratic-Republican Party, which backed Jefferson and Burr, gave each 73 electoral votes, thus triggering the need for the House to step in and decide the election.

Following this debacle, since at the time the top and second vote getters were elected President and Vice President, the 12th Amendment was ratified in 1804 which called for the two nominees for the top slots in the Executive Branch be from the same party.

For a few years all was sane, then came the 1824 Election pitting Andrew Jackson against Henry Clay, John Quincy Adams and William H. Crawford, the sitting Treasury Secretary.

There was no majority of electors.

Under the 12th Amendment, the top three vote getters would be cast to the House of Representatives for a vote. Clay was out, but agreed to throw his support behind Adams in exchange for becoming Secretary of State for the son of the first Adams to be President.

Jackson had won the popular vote, but the Clay-Adams could not be beaten.

In an election that gave rise to the image of powerful men with cigars in a smoke-filled back room making deals to decide the fate of the Oval Office, Rutherford B. Hayes became President in the 1876 Election although rival Samuel J. Tilden had won the popular vote.

Under a commission set up by Congress to determine which slate of state electors to seat in the event a state submitted competing rosters of electors, but the commission kept splitting 8-7 to over which slate to seat from Florida, South Carolina and Louisiana.

Hayes cut a deal with commission members to withdraw Reconstruction Era federal troops from the South in exchange for the South to protect and respect the rights of freed blacks.

The commission approved the slates of Hayes’ electors handing the election to him.

Although Hayes kept his word and withdrew federal troops, as history has shown us, it was nearly a century later before the South finally lived up to its end of the bargain.

There is also the unusual situation where Gerald Ford became President after Richard Nixon resigned from office rather than be impeached over the Watergate scandal.

Ford, a member of the Michigan House delegation, was elevated to be Vice President after Spiro T. Agnew was removed from the vice presidency on charges of taking bribes while Governor of Maryland. This set-up the situation for Ford to become the first and only President of the United States to have not been elected to office.

This brings us to this weird year. We have the two most unpopular candidates for office ever as the nominees or soon to be of the two major parties – Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

There is rebellion among Establishment and some conservative Republicans who have lined up as #NeverTrump. These GOP members are looking for another candidate to support. The opposition to Trump even includes the GOP 2012 nominee, Mitt Romney.

With Democrats there are those who felt “the Bern” and pledged their all to Bernie Sanders. Uncle Bernie today endorse Clinton. His supporters, however, are not falling inline and looking for an alternative.

Independent voters, the largest voting bloc, are not happy with the choices being set before them. Independents want a real vote, not a vote against someone instead of for someone.

This brings us to third party candidate from the Libertarian Party, former Republican New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson.

Although no one expects Johnson has any chance of winning the White House, there is the possibility the Republican turned Libertarian could match or best the showing of either Ross Perot in the 1990s or George Wallace in the 1960s.

What if Johnson drew enough votes from the Sanders camp, the disgruntled Republicans and perplexed independents to not win the Electoral College, but to prevent either Trump or Clinton from getting a majority?

The election outcome would then fall into the House of Representatives where each state would have one vote.

A simple majority would determine the presidency.

A simple majority would also with a vacancy on the Supreme Court could determine which direction the Judiciary Branch would travel for at least a generation.

This means that the down ballot races are even more important than ever before. Who controls the House of Representatives controls the fate of both the Executive and Judicial Branches of Government.

From the Cornfield, this one year that one vote, your vote could make a difference.

This is not a year to sit out.

References:

http://www.leinsdorf.com/House.htm

http://history.house.gov/Institution/Electoral-College/Electoral-College/

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Mark

I am Mark Ivy, a born and bred Hoosier.
I am father to two wonderful sons, Dave and Kev, of whom I am very proud;
two terrific daughters-in-law, Anna and Hailey; three beautiful granddaughters, Dylan, Alaina and Amelia.

On May 9, 2017, my lung specialist hit me with the news I had maybe six months to live if the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the damage caused by the histoplasmosis described below, ran its normal course. I am now on hospice at home. Content and ready to cross over the river to the other side.

On September 2, 2014, I was diagnosed with disseminated histoplasmosis, a fungal infection, discovered by a biopsy of my larynx.
The infection is fatal if left untreated. For 2 1/2 years I lived under a death sentence being misdiagnosed
with a non-specific bacterial infection which left my right lung a “dried up sponge” and non-functioning.
I was aggressively treated for the infection with antifungals.
The treatment ended October of 2015 and fortunately did not take two years.

I suffer from chronic Horton’s Syndrome. The effects vary widely causing various problems.
Statistically, Horton’s affects only 0.1% of the population. Major depression also attacks me regularly.

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