Could Tuesday’s presidential election result in a historic tie?

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney greets supporters during a campaign rally.

After $2.5 billion and years of campaigning, the US election could fail to produce a president – or put an unelected senator in the White House. With the candidates still locked together in the polls, Americans could wake up Wednesday to a tie and a new battle that could run into next year.

If Mitt Romney overturns deficits in enough battleground states, the Electoral College vote could be tied at 269 each – a 1% chance according to several polls. If the result is a first tie since 1824, the majority-Republican House of Representatives would choose the president, but the majority-Democrat senate would choose the Vice-President, producing the difficult combination of Mitt Romney and Joe Biden.

“The senate could legally choose Biden but there would be pressure on them not to play politics and to allow the President to work with his Vice President,” Edward Foley, director of the election law program at Ohio State University, told Metro.

Should the House fail to deliver an immediate verdict it brings new scenarios into play. Joe Biden would be next in line for President if he received the Senate nomination. If the Senate also failed to agree it could pass to House speaker John Boehner.

Before that happened, a tie would likely cause a protracted legal battle over close states, with both sides amassing huge legal teams. “Half of Democrats believe Republicans are suppressing votes and half of Republicans believe Democrats are committing fraud,” Charles Keller, constitutional law professor at Columbia Law School, told Metro. “We could see the Supreme Court intervene again (after 2000)”.

Although there is a time limit with ‘safe harbor’ laws ensuring a result by January 7, another mess would mean pressure on the Electoral College system. “If this ends in court it would be disastrous and the President would lack legitimacy,” Norman Williams, director of the Willamette Center for Constitutional Government, told Metro.

Scenario 1 – Tie with Republicans winning popular vote: Mitt Romney President, Joe Biden Vice-President
Scenario 2 - Tie with Republicans winning popular vote: Mitt Romney President, Paul Ryan Vice-President
Scenario 3 – Tie with Democrats winning popular vote: Barack Obama President, Joe Biden Vice-President
Scenario 4 – Representatives cannot decide: Joe Biden President
Scenario 5 – Senate cannot decide: John Boehner President

Back to 2000

Democrat candidate Al Gore wins popular vote but Republican George W. Bush controversially takes Florida to win the Electoral College vote by a tiny margin. Supreme Court intervenes to rule a recount unconstitutional.


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