Wednesday, October 27, 2004

WaPo Gets the Electoral College Wrong

Dana Milbank needs to read the news and his Constitution closer (or WaPo needs to put Rant Wraith on the payroll). In an article headlined "Electoral College Calculus" Milbank writes

"President Bush and Sen. John F. Kerry deadlock on Tuesday with 269 electoral votes apiece -- but a single Bush elector in West Virginia defects, swinging the election to Kerry."

Background: earlier this week West Virginia elector Richie Robb "says he might not vote for Bush to protest the president's economic and foreign policies." However, "Robb calls it "highly unlikely" that he would cast a vote for Democrat John Kerry. He said he might cast his vote for Vice President Dick Cheney or another Republican instead as a protest against Bush, meaning the president would lose out on one electoral vote."

Note to Milbank: Robb's defection would not directly benefit Kerry. In this scenario a 269 tie would simply change to a 269-268 Kerry lead if Robb voted for neither Bush nor Kerry. Remember, the Electoral College is not won by the candidate with the most votes. It is won by the candidate who wins a majority of the votes. A crucial difference. Here's the Constitution, Amendment XII:

"The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted;--the person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of electors appointed;"

Fairly clear for an 18th Century document. But what if no candidate wins a majority, as in our scenario? It continues:

and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote. (emphasis added)

In which case Bush wins, since more States have Republican representatives than not.

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