10.30.12 firstname.lastname@example.org - Monday on the Think Tank I was joined by Dr. Ryan Teten, Assistant Professor of the Political Science at ULL, who specializes in elections and campaigns. Dr. Teten will join me election night to offer analysis; we talked today to preview the race between President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney.
However, in a race that is already razor-thin in terms of polling, Dr. Teten brought up something that floored me.
Forecasters say Hurricane Sandy could wreck serious havoc across one of the most densely-populated areas of our country. Millions may not be able to vote, and the ensuing confusion could also escalate already-simmering charges of voter fraud between the campaigns.
What happens if the whole thing gets tied up in the courts into January, or there's not a majority winner in the Electoral College, or both? Well, according to Dr. Teten, it might mean Joe Biden becomes the next President.
You read that right. Not Obama… not Romney. Biden.
"It's one of the most interesting things that's in the Constitution," Dr. Teten told me. "If there is a delay in picking the president, there is a failsafe. If no one got a majority of the Electoral College, it would go to the House of Representatives. If we don't have results by Inaugural Day (January 20, 2013,) the sitting Vice President of the United States becomes president."
So, if the matter isn't settled by January 20, Smilin' Joe becomes president.
Dr. Teten explained further: "In the Constitution, there's actually separate balloting for president and Vice President. So, what they had assumed, and what the 20th amendment speaks to, if there was some kind of dispute that wouldn't allow the President to be chosen, that the vice-president-elect (would assume the Presidency). But the problem is, because they're on the same ballot right now, we wouldn't have either one. So what happens is you default to the sitting Vice President, because they knew the President could be in the competition. And so you'd be looking at the Vice President becoming the President of the United States until the mess was sorted out.”
Here's the full text of Section 3 of the 20th Amendment:
If, at the time fixed for the beginning of the term of the President, the President elect shall have died, the Vice President elect shall become President. If a President shall not have been chosen before the time fixed for the beginning of his term, or if the President elect shall have failed to qualify, then the Vice President elect shall act as President until a President shall have qualified; and the Congress may by law provide for the case wherein neither a President elect nor a Vice President elect shall have qualified, declaring who shall then act as President, or the manner in which one who is to act shall be selected, and such person shall act accordingly until a President or Vice President shall have qualified.
The text above says Biden would be President "until a President shall have qualified." While that would presumably be when the House of Representatives (or court system) settles on the "winner." Dr. Teten says it may not be so clear-cut.
"Nobody has ever done this before. If we go this route, it could be a serious Pandora's Box."
And, here's an even stranger twist: Could we have a Romney-Biden White House?
The scenario of Joe Biden becoming president outlined above is if there is no majority winner in the Electoral College (a tie,) which is either tied up in the courts and/or isn't resolved by the House of Representatives. The Constitution provides that if there is a tie, then the House chooses the President. (More on this at LATimes.com.)
OK, so let's assume there is a tie...and it's NOT locked up in the courts...and the GOP-controlled House does choose Romney. Who chooses the VP? Well, it's the Democrat-controlled Senate. And if they pick Biden, we'd have a Romney-Biden White House.
Tune in to Garland’s Think Tank Tuesday/today at noon. He’ll follow up with a Constitutional expert about this intriguing possibility.