In case of tie in the election

According to the site:, Obama has a 10% or more lead in states with votes totally 260 and 5% lead in Colorado with 9 (there are a couple others). It is thus conceivable that there be a tie. As I read the second article of the constitution and the relevant parts of the 12th, 20th, and 25th amendments, it would appear that the state delegations to the House would get together and decide how their state would cast their vote. With the way the Congressional races are going, it seems likely that Obama would immediately be chosen. But suppose 17 state delegations decided not to show up for the vote. Then there would be no quorum and no vote. I assume that there are 17 state delegations that would be Republican dominated (although it might be that if even one Democrat showed up that would count the state towards a quorum–it is unclear). My understanding of these amendments is that then Nancy Pelosi would become president. Can any expert on these matters confirm that this is correct?

Only a single member needs to show up for a House delegation to cast its vote. There aren’t more than a handful of delegations without a single Democratic member.

The Senate elects the Vice-President from among the top two finishers in the VP electoral vote, interposing another person in line in front of Pelosi.

If there is not a quorum then those who are there can demand a quorum call. Attendance is compulsory. The House members must come (but only need to place enough people in the chamber to maintain the quorum). Once quorum is achieved the vote can take place.

Not to mention this is a Constitutional duty of the House. For some congresscritters to block a vote for President by being absent, I think, would be a Constitutional violation. I bet you could get the SCOTUS to compel their attendance as well (literally send the police after them and drag them kicking and screaming into the chamber). The alternative would be a Constitutional crisis if there is no President to take office leaving the position empty. I don’t care who is sitting on the SCOTUS…they would not abide that.

Given that my guess is they’d come willingly if reluctantly.

On reflection I suppose there would not be a crisis. I imagine if somehow a President was not chosen the line of succession would kick in meaning the Speaker of the House would assume the office. Since that is currently Nancy Pelosi I am betting Republicans would not bother a stunt as posed in the OP probably preferring Obama to her.

ETA: Or technically would Cheney become President? He is first in line but then he and Bush become ex-POTUS/VPOTUS when the new president is inaugurated. Hmm…

Nah. Trying to deprive a legislature of quorum is a well-recognized procedural maneuver. I imagine you’re right that they could demand a quorum call, although nobody would – as Freddy notes, if the GOP members abjured the Chamber, the Democrats would just show up and cast their states’ ballots for Obama, even for states with a Republican majority delegation. I’m sure there’s less than 17 states that don’t have at least one Democratic representative.

No, the Court doesn’t do stuff like that. But it wouldn’t need to – the Chamber has the intrinsic power to compel the attendence of members, by force if necessary.

Freddy and the OP have already discussed the applicable text, which makes clear that this isn’t what would happen. If no president is selected in the House, then the Vice President-elect becomes president (or Acting President). He is selected by the Senate through a simple one-senator-one-vote process. If no vice president has been selected, then the person next in line of succession – currently Speaker Pelosi – becomes president (or Acting President).

At no time would there be no person with the power of the president.

What I wonder is when these votes in the Hosue and Senate take place. Would it be after the new Congress is sworn in on Jan. 3d? It’s a mostly academic question, but if there were a tie (won’t happen) and the House were unable to resolve it (also won’t happen), then the current Senate would possibly also tie, with Lieberman supporting the Republican ticket. But the incoming Senate certainly won’t.


I agree the Chamber can compel attendance. However, if by some stretch of the imagination Congress refused to do its job (eg the Speaker refuses to compel the quorum and the House cannot get a new Speaker) I would expect it is the role of the SCOTUS to do something. If not the SCOTUS then who?

I agree this is all massive speculation and hypothetical and won’t happen. Fun to ponder though.

The electoral votes, by law, will be counted before a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, January 6, 2009. Should no candidate receive a majority for President and/or Vice President, the two houses will immediately separate and begin the necessary balloting.

With respect to the necessary quorum, the Constitution is quite explicit. For the House, “a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states”. For the Senate, “a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators”.

Should either House lack a quorum, the normal procedure is for the rump of the house to approve a resolution directing the sergeant at arms to compel the attendance of absent members, and then (if still no quorum) to issue warrants for the arrest of absent members. Beyond that, I refuse to speculate.

Only three, in fact: Alaska, Idaho, and Wyoming.

Ah. Thanks. (And it appears likely even that won’t be the case in Alaska by Jan. 6th.)


It’s certainly more than that, since Montana’s lone Representative is a Republican. As are, I suspect, the reps for North and South Dakota.

That wouldn’t happen, in any case. The new Vice-President is inaugurated just before the new President, so the VP office would be officially filled a few minutes before the office of President is officially vacated.

For the record, in the current Congress, there are 6 states represented solely by Republicans: Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, and Wyoming. There are 7 states represented solely by Democrats: Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Vermont.

Yeah, sorry for the confusion — I misread things and gave the states that are represented solely by Republicans in both the House and the Senate.