Close election could lead to odd consequences

Friday, November 2, 2012

Time is growing short in Election 2012, with twists such as Obama's poor performance in the first presidential debate, his redemption in response to Hurricane

Sandy and praise from even New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and an endorsemment from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Some are speculating there could be a split vote -- Romney winning the popular vote, for instance, but Obama winning the Electoral College and the election as a result.

In case you've already forgotten, George W. Bush won the Electoral College in 2000 as well as a 5-4 (Supreme Court decision over Florida votes), while Al Gore won the popular vote.

It almost happened again in 2004, when Bush led John Kerry by 3 million popular votes nationwide, but Kerry was only 100,000 votes shy of winning Ohio, which would have given him an Electoral College win.

Other notable elections included 1888 when Grover Cleveland won the Electoral College despite Benjamin Harrison's popular vote, 1876 when Rutherford B. Hayes was awarded 20 contested electoral votes by a partisan commission over Samuel J. Tilden; 1824 when there was no electoral vote majority winner between Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, William H. Crawford and Henry Clay, and the election was determined by the House, the same outcome as in 1800, when Thomas Jefferson and John Adams had an electoral vote tie.

An NPR story this morning cited Electoral College critic George Edwards of Oxford University, who noted that if Obama and Romney tie with 269 electors each, the new president would be decided by the House, with each state casting one vote, and 26 needed to select the president.

Because the Republicans control more state delegations, Romney would become president. The Democratic-controlled Senate, meanwhile, would re-elect Joe Biden as vice president -- an interesting proposition.

Edwards noted that would mean that the seven least populous states, with 5.3 million residents between them, would outvote the 125 million people in the six largest states.

While a split decision would draw attention to the movement to abolish the Electoral College, smaller states are loath to relinquish their disproportionate representation, and no longer to either of the major political parties have a clear advantage in the current system.

And, only nine states require their electors to vote for the national vote winner, and Maine and Nebraska split their electoral votes by congressional district.

While it's unlikely that the Electoral College will be abolished, regardless the outcome of Tuesday's election, perhaps it would be a good time to re-examine the entire election process, in light of changes in society, technology and communication.

How about a cumulative system of voting, where voters are able to divide their votes among several candidates, or pick their first, second or third choices for office.

Such a change is perhaps even less likely to occur, given the power the major political parties would have to give up, but it might be one way to break the gridlock currently in place.

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