The Globe ran a Reuters story today about what should happen if John McCain and Barack Obama tie with 269 electoral votes each. Though Obama is opening up a small lead in some key states, there's still a month and circumstances could change.
There was a similar situation once before in an American presidential election. In 1824 none of the four candidates received a majority of the electoral votes. What happens? The House of Representatives chooses, and that year they elected John Quincy Adams.
There are some twists, however. In a vote of the House to decide an election, each state casts one vote. So, the Democratic margin in the House is smaller than the current 31. According to the story, the Democrats lead in the make-up of state delegations, 27-21. The other two are tied. (There is some disagreement over whether this Congress or the newly-elected one gets to choose.)
The other monkey wrench is that the Senate chooses the VP on a straight up or down vote. Theoretically, the president and vice president could be from different parties. Though technically the two major parties each have 49 senators, the two independents (Bernie Sanders and the turncoat Joe Lieberman) caucus with the Democrats, giving them a two-vote majority. One could easily see Lieberman choosing the GOP candidate, who is part of the ticket he is currently endorsing. This would mean a tie, which current VP Dick Cheney would presumably break with a vote for the lunatic Sarah Palin.
Of course, a tied electoral field could quickly evaporate if just one elector is persuaded to change his or her vote, which seems to be legal in most states.
Doesn't all of this make a good case for abolishing the often-misunderstood and always-cumbersome Electoral College?