Potential Paths to a 269 Predicament

Potential Paths to a 269 Predicament

November 2, 2012, 5:02 PM

Nov. 3, 2012— -- ABC News' Jon Karl has detailed how this election could actually result in a Romney/Biden administration. But in the event of an electoral college tie, there's one last-ditch possibility to avoid this bipartisan turn of events. The actual convening of the Electoral College in their respective states is on Dec. 17.

First — let's look at the potential paths to 269.

ABC News currently predicts 237 electoral votes as solid or leaning toward Obama, and 206 leaning toward or solidly going for Romney. The remaining 95 electoral votes are up for grabs in the eight states that ABC currently rates as battlegrounds: Nevada, Colorado, Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, Florida, Virginia and New Hampshire. There are a number of scenarios that could lead to a 269/269 split, but given where the polls are heading into Election Night, there are five plausible scenarios that could yield this mathematical nightmare.

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1. In the first scenario, which appears to be the most plausible at this point according to current polling in the states, Obama carries Ohio, New Hampshire and Wisconsin, while Romney carries Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Colorado, Nevada and Iowa.

This is the only scenario that includes Obama carrying Ohio that could result in a tie. In general, if Obama is able to carry this state, the map becomes much easier for Democrats. Polling has shown Obama with a slight lead in Ohio, Wisconsin and New Hampshire recently, and Florida and North Carolina appear to be moving in Romney's favor. However, polling has also shown Iowa leaning for Obama.

2. The second possible path to 269 goes through the West for Democrats. Obama carries Colorado and Nevada, along with New Hampshire and Virginia. Romney wins Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Iowa and Wisconsin.

3. The third scenario is similar. Obama carries Virginia, Colorado, Iowa and New Hampshire. Romney wins Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Nevada.

4. The remaining two scenarios seem, at this point, less likely. If Obama wins North Carolina, Virginia and Hampshire, and Romney wins Florida, Ohio, Colorado, Nevada, Wisconsin and Iowa, both candidates will have 269 votes. But recent polls have shown North Carolina tilting toward Romney- ABC News currently rates it "lean Republican."

5. In the final scenario, Obama wins Wisconsin, Colorado and Virginia. Romney wins Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Nevada, Iowa and New Hampshire. Recent polling, however, has shown Obama with a small but notable lead in New Hampshire.

The Constitution dictates that if the Electoral College is deadlocked, the newly seated House of Representatives would select the president while the newly seated Senate would select the vice president. But the Electoral College doesn't vote on Nov. 6 - they actually meet to vote Dec. 17.

That's right. There is a real Electoral College made up of a body of 538 electors from each of the 50 states plus D.C., and they actually convene after every presidential election to formally select the president. Twenty-six states plus D.C. legally require their chosen electors to vote for the candidate who won their state. However, the remaining 24 states–including the swing states of Iowa and New Hampshire–do not have those requirements, meaning that an elector can decide to go rogue and vote for another candidate.

Let's say that one of the tie scenarios where Obama wins New Hampshire plays out, but when the Electoral College meets, a New Hampshire elector decides to cast their ballot for Romney. That would tilt the scales— instead of 269 to 269, the score would then be 270 Romney, 268 Obama and voila, a president would be chosen.

It's unclear how plausible this really is, but conventional wisdom dictates that it's not likely.

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The process of selecting the actual electors varies from state to state, but electors are chosen on Election Day in conjunction with the presidential candidate they support. If a voter votes for Obama, they're also voting for someone who has been selected as an Obama elector. Typically– although again, not always–these electors are individuals who have a history of political activity with one party, which means they're not likely to be susceptible swing voters.

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