“A well-tied tie is the first serious step in life.” ~Oscar Wilde
Question: How do you think voting will take place this year considering the COVID-19 Pandemic? Also, could there be a tie or a situation where the Electoral College cannot determine our President?
Answer: Since the onset of the pandemic, the physical logistics and the outcome of this upcoming election have been people’s minds. COVID-19 developments are being closely monitored from a public health, economic and political perspective.
COVID-19 will impact election results, we just don’t know how. Many community centers and other buildings that double as voter registration and/or voting locations are closed to the general public, further complicating the process. A national survey by Pew Research showed that 67% of Americans expected the nature of the pandemic to disrupt people’s ability to vote in the Presidential Election. The same poll reports 70% of Americans in favor of allowing registered voters to vote by mail if they preferred doing so.
Absentee ballots are not the same as voting by mail. All states offer absentee ballots in some form for registered voters who on Election Day are not physically able to be present at their designated voting location. Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington automatically send mail-in ballots to all registered voters, not just those who apply. Some states do require an excuse or reason for an absentee ballot request. To learn more about your state’s policy, the National Conference of State Legislatures website: www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/absentee-and-early-voting.aspx is a helpful resource. Florida has an online portal to request an absentee ballot. Mail-in voting largely depends on individual state laws. Two shortcomings of mail-in voting are higher administrative costs and longer counting periods. These could delay election results, and potentially increase any litigation or challenges to the election outcome. Historically, election results depend in part on the general state of the economy and this year, the public health situation this fall.
Although highly unlikely and improbable, the outcome could be that no candidate accumulates the 270 necessary Electoral College votes to become President and there is a 269-269 Electoral College “tie.” This year, if Michigan, Pennsylvania and Nebraska’s 2nd District vote for Joe Biden rather than for Donald Trump as they did in 2016, and all other state outcomes mirror 2016 results, we could have a 269-269 tie.
Under the Twelfth Amendment, in the event of a tie or an inability of a single candidate to win a majority of Electoral College votes, contingent election procedures are outlined as to how Congress would select the president and vice president. The House of Representatives would vote to select the President while the Senate selects the Vice President.
Here’s how that would work: States cast a single vote decided by the majority vote within their delegations. A majority of states’ votes (26 out of 50) is required to select the president. Party control of state delegations becomes the factor to watch in the new Congress. Republicans currently have control of 26 state delegations while Democrats have 22; two are evenly split. 18 states can delay the vote, as a quorum of two-thirds of states is required to hold the vote.
Senators select the Vice President with a simple majority vote. The sitting vice president can cast a tie-breaking vote. 67 senators needed to hold the vote, as a quorum of two-thirds of the Senate is required. This means 34 senators could block the vote under the contested scenario.
And finally, if Congress can’t decide on a President, the Senate-selected vice president becomes acting president on January 20 if the House cannot select a president. If the Senate is also unable to select a vice president, the speaker of the house becomes acting president, per succession rules.
Although this outcome is remote, the educational exercise of understanding the voting process highlights the importance of this privilege. If an Electoral College tie did occur, it could produce unique outcomes such as a spilt party president/vice president or an acting President Pence, Pelosi, Chuck Grassley or Patrick Leahy, per presidential order of succession rules. No matter how you do it, vote!
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There is no guarantee that these statements, opinions or forecasts provided herein will prove to be correct. Past performance does not guarantee future results. The opinions expressed are those of the writer as of August 19, 2020, but not necessarily those of Raymond James and Associates, and subject to change at any time. All information provided herein is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be, and should not be interpreted as, an offer, solicitation, or recommendation to buy or sell or otherwise invest in any of the securities/sectors/countries that may be mentioned. Information obtained from outside sources is believed to be reliable but cannot be guaranteed as such.
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