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Obama/Palin or McCain/Biden
September 4, 2008 11:01 PM   Subscribe

Is Obama/Palin (or for that matter McCain/Biden) possible?

Given what happened in 1836, and my understanding of the electoral college system it would appear hypothetically possible.

However, each state controls the voting system for their electors, and while Delaware has a slate voting law (see (9) at the bottom of the page), and Wisconsin has a ban on write-ins for VP standing alone (see bottom of page 5), it would still appear possible to write-in the VP from the other party with a presidential vote for a specific candidate (at least in those two states). I am not a student of US state voting laws (I found these two examples from Google), but I am wondering if there are any voting wonks who are familiar with the whole panoply of the 50 states who could advise if Obama/Palin or McCain/Biden are possible in 2008. (i.e. do enough states with enough electors have enabling legislation?)
posted by birdsquared to Law & Government (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Because of the way the presidential election system is done now, the likelihood of one party's presidential candidate and the other party's vice presidential candidate is nil. Certainly, if the GOP wanted to field a huge variety of candidate a la 1836 for the presidency and some of them reached a threshold to force an historic run-off election (if no candidate received 50% of the popular vote) then certainly it is possible hypothetically for this to occur.

I imagine you are wondering because there is the element of Ron Paul still running for president and Bob Barr electrifying the Libertarians. I would love to see this style of election, the First Past the Post style, brought further into American politics to replace the primary system. However, it won't happen any time soon by my reckoning.
posted by parmanparman at 11:31 PM on September 4, 2008


I don't think the question is about likelihood, but theoretical possibility. Under current legislation, is it theoretically possible for Obama/Palin to be elected?
posted by jacalata at 12:07 AM on September 5, 2008


Seems to me that it would be theoretically possible. Under the 12th amendment electors are required to cast separate ballots for both president and vice president. Since they, in theory, have free discretion to cast ballots for whomever they want, then I'd say this is possible in theory.

However unlikely it might be in reality, which would be extremely unlikely.
posted by IvoShandor at 12:27 AM on September 5, 2008


There's another way as well:

If there is a tie in the electoral college, the presidential race goes to the House. The Senate votes on the vice president. The two houses do not have to pick the same ticket.
posted by spaltavian at 12:37 AM on September 5, 2008


parmanparman: ...force an historic run-off election (if no candidate received 50% of the popular vote)...

I think you mean if no candidate received 50% of the electoral vote. Obviously many presidents have been elected with less than 50% of the popular vote without forcing a runoff.

I think the only chance for this to happen would be in spaltavian's (& parmanparman's) runoff scenario. State laws preventing faithless electors pretty much mean that electors have no choice but to vote for the candidate their state chooses, so you'd have to have it go to the House and Senate for a split ticket to be elected.
posted by dseaton at 1:47 AM on September 5, 2008


Some interesting related information: http://www.snopes.com/history/american/vicepresident.asp
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 4:13 AM on September 5, 2008


oops: link
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 4:13 AM on September 5, 2008



I think you mean if no candidate received 50% of the electoral vote. Obviously many presidents have been elected with less than 50% of the popular vote without forcing a runoff.


That's what I meant and why I am implementing a personal rule to not answer any questions if I happen to wake up with a fever at 2:30 in the morning anymore.
posted by parmanparman at 7:33 AM on September 5, 2008


Unless I'm mis-remembering, we used to vote once for VP and once for Pres. Now they run as a set (probably where calling it one Ticket came from ? ).
posted by TheDukeofLancaster at 9:08 AM on September 5, 2008


On a related note, what would happen (practically speaking) if one of the candidates at the top of the ticket were to die before the election? Would Palin or Biden automatically move to the top of the ticket, or would the party hold some sort of emergency convention? Is there a precedent for this situation?
posted by btkuhn at 10:23 PM on September 5, 2008


On a related note, what would happen (practically speaking) if one of the candidates at the top of the ticket were to die before the election? Would Palin or Biden automatically move to the top of the ticket, or would the party hold some sort of emergency convention? Is there a precedent for this situation?

From the Constitution:
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.
posted by gjc at 6:39 AM on September 6, 2008


Unless I'm mis-remembering, we used to vote once for VP and once for Pres. Now they run as a set (probably where calling it one Ticket came from ? ).

This is from the unamended constitution. Warning, it's a doozie.
The electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for two persons, of whom one at least shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves. And they shall make a list of all the persons voted for, and of the number of votes for each; which list they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. 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 shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such majority, and have an equal number of votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately choose by ballot one of them for President; and if no person have a majority, then from the five highest on the list the said House shall in like manner choose the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by States, the representation from each state having one vote; A quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. In every case, after the choice of the President, the person having the greatest number of votes of the electors shall be the Vice President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal votes, the Senate shall choose from them by ballot the Vice President.
So, from reading that, you are sort of correct. It was up to the states to decide how the citizens actually voted, so you'd have to do a state-by-state history to see what "the people" were actually voting for. But once the state decided the electors, it was a first and second place thing. It's actually a far more fair and balanced way to run things. A bit more detente.

It has since been changed to make the electoral college vote separately for each office.
posted by gjc at 6:51 AM on September 6, 2008


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 one of them died before the election, they would not be the President-elect. I think I've heard of elections running with a dead guy on the ticket, but what are the other options? How do you switch nominees if the successful nominee dies?
posted by jacalata at 4:32 PM on September 6, 2008


Jacalata is right. The quoted language applies only after the election.

It is up to the parties to nominate their candidate. The Constitution is silent as to how they do that. Perhaps the parties have their own internal protocols in the event that the scenario raised by btkuhn arises.

In fact, the Constitution is silent altogether on how the candidates are selected. It is a little-known fact that there is nothing that requires primary elections, or caucuses, or any other elective process to select nominees for the presidential election. The operative language is found in Article II, Section 1:

"Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors. . . "

A state could decide to have its governor or its legislature choose its presidential electors, and there is nothing in the Constitution that would prevent that. It is only the political process that prevents it.
posted by megatherium at 8:41 PM on September 7, 2008


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