Donald Trump likes to call her “Crazy Nancy,” but chances are House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has the last laugh.
Ms. Pelosi could, if she does, be crowned President Pelosi.
The process known as “conditional choice” is described in the 12th Amendment to the US Constitution.
Typically, to win a US presidential election, a candidate must win enough states to get 270 electoral college votes.
There are 538 voters representing the 50 states and the District of Columbia, which means 270 is the “magic number”.
If none of the candidates reach 270, the 12th amendment provides that the presidency be elected by the House of Representatives while the Senate decides on the vice presidency.
It has happened only twice in American history – in 1825 when the House elected John Quincy Adams President, and in 1837 when the Senate elected Richard Mentor Johnson as Vice President.
In 2016, Mr. Trump won 304 electoral college votes for Hillary Clinton’s 227.
While Mr Biden is currently the clear favorite to oust the incumbent Republican next month, the 2016 opinion poll was notoriously inaccurate.
Polling analytics website FiveThirtyEight currently estimates the likelihood that Congress will rule the election if none of the candidates get 270 electoral college votes is less than 1 percent.
But the University of Virginia Center for Politics last month stated that if Mr. Trump won every state currently listed as a “throw,” the outcome would be the “dreaded” 269-269 tie.
While that means it’s a pretty unlikely scenario, it’s 2020 – and both sides take the possibility very seriously.
Ms. Pelosi began mobilizing Democrats to fight last month. Politico reported.
It is crucial that a conditional election differs from a regular vote in the House of Representatives in that each state delegation, unlike each member, only receives one vote.
That means that a state like Alaska, which has only one representative in the house, has the same say as more populous states like California and Texas with 53 and 36 respectively.
The way in which each state delegation votes is based on a simple majority among the representatives.
While the Democrats hold a majority with 232 to 197 seats, the Republicans actually control more state delegations overall.
26 state delegations currently have a Republican majority and 22 a Democratic majority.
Pennsylvania is tied at nine-nine while Michigan has seven Democrats, six Republicans, and the independent Justin Amash – who are expected to vote with Democrats if he leaves the Republican Party.
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However, the vote would not be carried out by the current Congress, but by the Congress elected on November 3rd.
The new Congress will be sworn in on January 3rd, and members will meet on January 6th to count the votes.
“The Constitution says that a candidate must receive a majority of state delegations to win,” Ms. Pelosi said in a letter to House Democrats last month.
“We have to get that majority of delegations or stop the Republicans.”
She added that “it is sad that we have a top plan this way, but it is what we have to do to make sure the elections are not stolen”.
Democrats are now aggressively targeting key seats that entire state delegations could flip, especially in places like Montana and Alaska where they will get more bang for their buck.
While Trump and the Republican House candidates are still favored for winning these states, according to FiveThirtyEight, the Democrats have become increasingly competitive.
“We’re trying to win every seat in America, but there are obviously some places where a congressional district is more important than just getting the member to the US House of Representatives,” said Jamie Raskin, Democratic representative of Maryland Politico.
Mr Trump is also very aware of the problem.
At a rally in Pennsylvania last month, the president spoke to supporters and reiterated his claim that the election would be a “disaster” because of issues with mass mail-in voting, but argued that if the election was, Republicans would have an advantage Vote would go to Congress.
“I don’t want to end up before the Supreme Court or go back to Congress, although we have an advantage in going back to Congress,” he said.
“Does everyone understand? I think it’s 26-22 or so because it’s counted as one vote per state. So we actually have an advantage. ”
For its part, the UVA Political Center predicts that Republicans will come out on top in a contingent-election scenario.
“While the Democrats have a majority in the House of Representatives and are on track to maintain that majority for the next year, Republicans actually have and will keep a head start on a potential vote in the electoral college,” wrote UVA’s Kyle Kondik.
But he wondered if “in a world where Republicans lose a national house race in Alaska or Montana, or Democrats otherwise cut into those GOP-controlled house delegations,” the electoral college would be “knotted between 269 and 269.”
“Probably not – in this world, Joe Biden is also likely to win the electoral college directly,” he said.
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