The Scenario: There’s an Electoral College Tie in the Presidential
Election; What Happens Next?

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 23, 2020 — As we move closer to Election Day, various scenarios are being discussed and theorized about who will win the presidential race and which states will fall to what candidate. A little-mentioned outcome, which is a mathematical possibility, is an Electoral College tie.

A deadlock would occur if each candidate received 269 electoral votes. Based upon the 2016 result, which saw President Trump receiving 306 electoral votes to Hillary Clinton’s 232, a tie would occur if the incumbent were to lose exactly 37 electoral votes from his previous performance.

The easiest way for that to occur is if President Trump and former vice president Joe Biden were to build the same coalition of states with the exception of Pennsylvania, Michigan and the 2nd District of Nebraska going from the Republican to Democratic column. In this instance, the two 2020 candidates, Trump and Biden, would have 269 electoral votes apiece.

If this were to happen, how is a tie in the Electoral College resolved? The answer: in the House of Representatives. The difference between the vote for president and a regular House vote is that individual members do not have his or her own vote for president. Rather, each state delegation has one vote.

Therefore, California, for example, with its 53 House members gets one vote for president. Conversely, the at-large states with one House member, such as Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming, would also each get one vote. So the vote for president skews toward the small states and rural regions.

Interestingly though, the Democrats control the House majority with 232 members and one Democratic vacancy to 198 Republican seats with one Libertarian sitting in what is typically a Republican seat and three GOP vacancies. Yet, if partisanship holds, the Republicans would win a presidential election vote 26 to 23 with one state, Pennsylvania, in a 9-9 split delegation. Assuming that the Keystone delegation would fail to agree on a candidate, the state would not be able to cast its vote.

Continue reading

SCOTUS: The Effect of Replacing Late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg On The 35 Senate Races

By Jim Ellis

Late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Sept. 22, 2020 — A secondary question surrounding the replacement process for the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is how will the confirmation fight over the next judicial nominee resonate in the 35 Senate races?

In the 18 campaigns that appear non-competitive (9D; 8R) – for example, in Illinois (Sen. Dick Durbin-D), Rhode Island (Sen. Jack Reed-D), Arkansas (Sen. Tom Cotton-R), and Idaho (Sen. Jim Risch-R) to name a representative quartet – the Supreme Court battle will have little influence over the Senate outcome since those situations are virtually decided.

If the individual campaigns play the issue correctly, however, the Supreme Court vacancy development could be a boon to most competitive Republican incumbents and candidates in traditionally conservative states that are moving closer to the political center.

Democratic challengers in the more conservative states could have trouble because the issue matrix likely to be discussed through the nomination and confirmation process should activate the more conservative voting base. This is likely the case in the key competitive southern domains (AL, GA, NC), and in the Midwest and Rocky Mountain states, particularly in Iowa, the Kansas open seat, and for the Montana duel, in addition to the far west campaign in Alaska.

Perhaps the senator in the worst confirmation question situation, and one who can ill afford to be embroiled in such a predicament, is Maine Sen. Susan Collins (R). Already trailing in polling to state House Speaker Sara Gideon, Sen. Collins’ immediate call to postpone the process, and what will likely lead to a vote against the motion to proceed, will likely cost her conservative votes that she badly needs.

Her position to postpone has likely angered many who comprise the conservative base and gained her nothing with the Independents and soft Democrats that she desperately needs to close the gap between she and Gideon.

Continue reading

Pennsylvania Voting Rules

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 21, 2020 — Pennsylvania’s Democratic controlled Supreme Court changed their state election procedures late last week in a series of rulings on a lawsuit that the Pennsylvania Secretary of State and PA Democratic Party previously filed.

Under the new process, receiving votes after the election is allowed if “no evidence exists” that the ballot was mailed after Election Day, Nov. 3. The deadline for ballot acceptance now moves from 8 pm on Election Day to 5 pm, Friday, Nov. 6. Pennsylvania becomes the 17th state to allow post-election reception for this 2020 election. The ruling increases the chances that we will not have a winner declared on election night.

Additionally, three other rulings will allow drop boxes to be used as ballot receptacles in the various counties, affirmed that poll watchers can only serve in their own county of residence, and Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins’ name was removed from the ballot. The court did not grant the lawsuit motion to allow ballot harvesting, which would permit third parties to deliver ballots to the authorities or ballot drop boxes.

The drop boxes will be placed in various locations around a county and voters can deposit their ballots without using the postal service to transfer their vote to the county election authorities. Hawkins’ name was removed from the ballot because the court said he “failed to comply with the Election Code’s strict mandate” and the attempts to fix the problem “did not suffice to cure that error,” but the specifics were not addressed.

With the large number of absentee ballots expected here and in other states, the trend toward allowing post-election reception, and the laws that some states, like Pennsylvania, have to control when the mail ballots can be counted, makes it less likely that we will see a definitive presidential campaign result on Nov. 3. The same will be true for certain US Senate and House races.

Of the 17 states, now including Pennsylvania, that are allowing post-election ballot reception, seven appear competitive. The others, Alaska, California, Kansas, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia will likely declare a clear winner relatively early in the counting period.

Continue reading

Sen. Lindsey Graham’s Challenge

By Jim Ellis

Is incumbent Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in re-election trouble?

Sept. 18, 2020 — Quinnipiac University surveyed the South Carolina political situation as part of their three-state polling series, which again produces some eyebrow-raising data. The results help identify why Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator from a Republican state, finds himself languishing in a competitive contest.

The poll (Sept. 10-14; 969 likely South Carolina voters, live interview conducted by the RDD firm for Quinnipiac) tested both the presidential and Senate campaigns. President Trump leads former vice president Joe Biden 51-45 percent in a ballot test that seems to be an under-count when looking at the survey’s supporting numbers. Sen. Graham, however, falls into a tie with opponent Jaime Harrison, at 48-48 percent, in a result that the underlying responses do seem to support.

President Trump’s six-point lead appears low because he tops Biden on virtually every personal and issue question. The Trump favorability index is 51:45 percent positive to negative, but the Biden ratio is much worse at 43:50 percent. The generic Republican-Democrat number falls 52-44 percent in favor of the GOP label.

Despite poor coronavirus management numbers for the president nationally, this South Carolina survey returns a 49:48 percent approval number on his handling of the issue. Furthermore, the respondents, in a 50-46 percent break, believe President Trump would do a better job handling coronavirus in the future than Biden. Not a particularly strong performance in this issue area, but better for the President than in almost any other place.

Trump also scores better in his handling of the economy (55-40 percent), the military (54-42 percent), and “keeping your family safe” (52-43 percent). Biden is favored, and only barely, 48-46 percent, on just one issue: racial equality.

Most importantly, the issue matrix sets up perfectly for Trump. The top two issues, according to these respondents, are the ones upon which the president is basing his campaign, law and order (23 percent) and bringing back the economy (22 percent). The Biden key issues rate rather poorly: coronavirus (12 percent), racial equality (12 percent), and healthcare (10 percent).

All of these underlying numbers suggest the Trump ballot test margin should be stronger than six points, which could be a signal that there is a “shy Trump voter factor” even in what is typically a safe Republican state. The “shy Trump voter” is the phrase now used to describe the individual who only secretly favors the president.

Continue reading

Reading North Carolina

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 17, 2020 — CNN released new North Carolina poll results earlier this week, and we again see a familiar pattern unfolding. There has been a Republican under-poll in the southern states detected in the past few elections, and the North Carolina pattern appears to form relatively consistently upon studying its most competitive statewide races in 2014, ’16, and what may be happening in 2020. There were no statewide Tar Heel State contests in 2018.

The CNN poll (conducted through the SSRS statistical firm; Sept. 9-13; 787 likely North Carolina voters; live interview through landline and mobile phones) found former vice president Joe Biden leading President Trump, 49-46 percent; Democratic US Senate nominee Cal Cunningham edging incumbent Republican Thom Tillis, 47-46 percent; and Gov. Roy Cooper (D) easily outdistancing Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, 53-44 percent.

How do these mid-September races compare with other campaigns at this same interval, and what does that tell us for autumn?

First, the CNN poll is one of seven polls conducted in North Carolina during the month of September, and its three-point margin for Biden is the Democrat’s second-best showing within this group. The only better Biden performance came from the Fox News poll at the beginning of September (Aug. 29-Sept. 1; 722 likely North Carolina voters, live interview), which posted him to a four-point, 50-46 percent, advantage.

Among the five other surveys, Biden is ahead in two, President Trump in two, and one has the pair tied at 47 percent apiece (Survey USA for WRAL-TV; Sept. 10-13; 596 likely North Carolina voters). From the eight polls conducted from Aug. 29-Sept. 13, Biden’s edge is just 0.7 percent, meaning the two candidates average to a statistical tie.

Recent political history suggests that this type of an average spread sets up well for President Trump, and possibly Sen. Tillis. It appears that Gov. Cooper’s margin is beyond the statistically relevant late-term Republican swing.

In September of 2016, a total of 14 publicly released polls were conducted during that month. Within this group, Hillary Clinton led in 10 of the surveys with an average spread of 2.4 percentage points. Trump was ahead in just three polls with an average margin of 2.0 percent. Two polls found the candidates tied. Therefore, Clinton’s overall September edge was an average 1.1 percent.

Continue reading