So The Wednesday Morning Quarterback has been a big fan of Selina Meyer, Dan, Amy, Mike, and most importantly, Sue, since Season 1, Episode 1, when the Veep literally hopped up and down in frustration at some bureaucratic inanity. As a recovering bureaucrat, WMQ was thrilled to finally see a TV show accurately capture government service — neither full of high ideals nor intrigue and skullduggery, but mostly about ridiculous circumstances out of everyone’s control.
WMQ was even more excited when she finally got around to watching this spring’s Season Finale — as Election Night ends in a tie and Selina’s attempt to become the first woman president is thrown to the House of Representatives. What a great topic for a summer blog post!!
So, here are the answers to some of your questions. Please let me know if you have others:
1. How can the Presidential Election end in a tie?
There are 538 Electoral College votes. The winner only has to win by a simple majority, so the winner needs to get 270 votes. Unfortunately, given the different number of electoral college votes each state is entitled to, there are different ways to run the numbers to reach a tie at 269 apiece.
2. Why is there an even number of Electoral College votes?
Each state gets a number of electoral college votes equal to the sum of its Congressmen and Senators, so Georgia has 16 electoral college votes: 14 for the Congressional Districts, and 2 for the Senators. Places like Wyoming get three votes: 1 for its Representative and 2 for its Senators. This equals 535 votes. Then, per the 23rd Amendment to the Constitution, the District of Columbia gets the same number of votes as the state with the fewest votes, so it gets a total of 3, meaning we have 538 votes.
3. OK, so she’s tied. And I remember from 8th grade civics class that at that point the election gets thrown to the House of Representatives. But how does Tom James end up as President?
According to the 12th Amendment, if the Electoral College is tied, then each state’s delegation in the House of Representatives gets one vote for President, among the top three candidates on the ballot. (Of course in our HBO scenario, there were only two candidates.) On the last episode of “Veep” it was suggested that this would prove difficult since many House races were too close to call. In reality, thanks to gerrymandering, I think it is unlikely that so many House races would be too close to call as to prohibit each Congressional delegation from casting a vote for the Presidency.
But for the sake of some excellent television, we’ll assume that the House cannot get its 12th Amendment act together. In the meantime, the Senate votes on the vice-president and each Senator gets one vote. Assuming the Senate is more efficient (hmm, hmm) than the House, then whomever it votes for becomes the Vice President. Per the 20th Amendment, the Vice President acts as President until a President is qualified.
Here is where it gets a little tricky: while the 25th Amendment permits the President to appoint a Vice President, subject to confirmation by both the House and the Senate, I don’t see 1) how the House gets out of its Constitutional duty to qualify a President; and 2) why Selina would accept the Veep position again.
According to what I’ve read about Veep, if the House vote for President ends in a tie, then, presto, Tom James, presumably elected by the Senate as Vice-President, becomes President. Except that isn’t exactly what the Constitution says; the Constitution says he can “act as President until a President shall have qualified.”
So perhaps James ends up as “acting President” and Selina as “acting Vice President?” The House never qualifies a President? Will Selina kill democracy?
The WMQ debated in college, and every single debate topic, whether it be third party politics or handgun control, always seemed to lead to nuclear war, at least in the imaginations of the 19 year old college debaters. I’m thinking a few of them may be writing for Veep now. Good job guys, but lets not get too apocolyptic. Keep the House of Representatives functional, and avoid nuclear war.