WASHINGTON – As the US presidential race nears the finish line, the virtual deadlock between US President Barack Obama
and Republican challenger Mitt Romney
has legal experts in the US concerned over a possible political nightmare – a tie.
The complex election process in the United States
and the fact that the last few polls peg both candidates at 48% have sparked fears that the Obama-Romney race may take after the 2000 presidential campaign, in which George W. Bush
and Al Gore
were also virtually tied and eventually needed the Supreme Court to decide who would become president.
The nature of the electoral system in the United States may sometimes mean that the candidate who wins the majority of the votes is not the one named president.
American voters essentially empower the Electoral College to choose the president. The College has 538 electors, based on the total voting membership of the United States Congress – 435 Representatives and 100 Senators – and three electors from the District of Columbia.
The Electoral College will convene on December 17 and vote for the president. The results of the vote would be presented to Congress on January 6 and confirmed by both houses of Congress.
The American Constitution stipulates that in the event that each candidate receives 269 votes, the House will choose the president and the Senate will choose the vice president.
A possible match? Romney and Biden (Photos: AFP)
Since the Republicans control the House and the Democrats control the Senate, a scenario in which Romney is elected president and Joe Biden
is named his VP is not impossible.
Such a scenario became a reality only twice before in US history.
Since a tied race may spell a lengthy process, both big parties are gearing for a possible legal battle, eyeing the potentially problematic results in the swing states:
Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Wisconsin Colorado, Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire and Nevada.
According to some reports, the Democrats sent 2,000 legal advisors to Ohio alone.
Political experts said that lawyers would most likely become involved in the process should the number of absentee ballots – counted several days after Election Day – would prove higher than the difference in the votes.
Professor Richard Hasen, of the Faculty of Law and Political Science at the University of California, said the key "Is whether the difference in votes between the two candidates is within what's known as the 'margin of litigation' — that is, the number of outstanding votes must be much greater than the margin separating Obama and Romney when the smoke clears.
"There not only have to be problems in an election. They have to be widespread enough or the margin close enough that litigating would actually make a difference," he said.