There are two things for which I am always on the lookout – especially later in the week when I’m getting wearier and more delirious:
- Weird political betting markets; and
- Opportunities to appreciate the eternal hate and disgust I have in my heart for Nancy Pelosi.
So, imagine my delight upon discovering a strange little political prop at MyBookie, offering odds on the positions Nancy Pelosi may occupy on January 21, 2021.
The options are: Speaker of the House (her current role in the House of Representatives) or US President.
What Position will Pelosi Hold on Jan 21, 2021?
- Matchup Odds
- Speaker of the House-50000
- US President+4000
Like me, you may react to that set of options by wondering how in the world Nancy Pelosi could become the President of the United States in January, despite never contending for the office.
It turns out it’s an improbable, but real, possibility if a new president isn’t determined before Inauguration Day, on January 20, 2021.
“Correct me if I’m wrong but if an election gets delayed doesn’t the Speaker of the House become interim President at the end of the incumbent’s term? So Trump wants President Pelosi?” read the tweet responsible for igniting the “President Pelosi” conversation earlier this Summer.
Here's what we've learned. If the election is postponed then the succession is contingent on when and how interim Reps are appointed locally. If Pelosi is reappointed by the California Governor then she can serve as President. Failing that then Sen. Grassley will be interim Pres.
— Monty (@MontyKYX) July 30, 2020
The Path to President Pelosi
Behind the convoluted series of events required to make Nancy Pelosi the President is the Presidential Succession Act of 1947.
The Presidential Succession Act also states that if neither a president nor a vice president is chosen by January 20, the Speaker of the House becomes President until a president or vice president is elected. That’s why the wager covers Pelosi’s position on the 21st.
It’s the first (and likeliest) date at which the Speaker could be empowered with the temporary authority of the presidency.
No Official Election Winner
For Nancy Pelosi to ascend to the White House, we’d need the results of Tuesday’s presidential election to be disputed or delayed. A tie in which both Trump and Biden secure 269 electoral college votes would do the trick as well.
If neither candidate acquires the 270 votes needed for an electoral college victory, the 12th Amendment requires that a contingent election is initiated. The newly elected House of Representatives is tasked with deciding who the next President will be.
Members of the House may only select from the top three finishers in the electoral college vote. Only Joe Biden and Donald Trump will win electoral votes, so they’ll be the two options.
A House Vote Benefits GOP
You’d think that with the Democratic Party holding a majority of the seats in the House, Pelosi’s party would benefit from an electoral college stalemate. The rules set by the 12th Amendment only give each of the 50 House delegations a single vote.
It doesn’t matter how many districts exist in a state. California and its 53 House Reps have the same influence on the contingent election as Montana’s delegation, which only consists of one Representative.
Democratic voters tend to come from densely populated metropolitan and suburban areas with many districts and a proportionately large number of electoral votes. However, looking at the electoral map, there are more red states overall than blue.
By reducing the 50 House delegations into a single vote each, the Republicans – in their plethora of less-populated states — are given an advantage. There are 26 state delegations with a GOP majority heading into Tuesday’s general election.
However, Congress’s balance of power is expected to shift in favor of the Democrats before any contingency votes would be held.
Deadlocked State Delegations
Some states – Pennsylvania, for example — feature a state delegation split evenly along party lines. According to Edward Foley, a constitutional law professor at Ohio State University, if none of the state’s Representatives flip, creating a 50-50 deadlock, the state’s vote won’t be counted at all.
The 12th Amendment states explicitly that “a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice.” So, delegations divided evenly between the two parties might risk the House’s ability to find the requisite 26 votes to declare a winner.
If the House isn’t able to settle the election by Inauguration Day on January 20, the vice president becomes President until it does. However, if the electoral college is at a stalemate on selecting a president, it’s highly likely the vice-presidential candidates will be similarly stalled.
Senators may only select from the VPs with the most electoral college votes — meaning, Pence and Harris. Each senator gets one vote, and a simple majority elects the vice president. However, a quorum of at least 67 senators is required to hold the vote.
If no vice-presidential candidate secures the Senate votes necessary to win, the duties fall to the Speaker of the House.
The Election Doesn’t Have to End in a Tie
The entire scenario we just walked through assumed the electoral college vote total ended in a tie. However, if the outcome of the 2020 presidential election is delayed, there’s a much better chance that it’s due to legal disputes that leave the ballot tallies inconclusive.
Between the tidal wave of conservative judges appointed to federal courts by Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell over the past year and newly confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett giving Republicans a 6-3 advantage on the Supreme Court, the President may choose to take his fight for a second term out of the hands of state officials and voters and into the courtrooms.
We already see court cases being fought over mail-in voting and ballot-counting timelines in multiple states. Some states are pushing for extensions that would allow them not only to continue counting but to accept mail-in ballots in the days and weeks after Election Day.
If the White House is successful in its efforts to end some states’ counts prematurely in places where Trump’s in-person Election Day totals give him an early advantage, we could see massive quantities of uncounted votes. This will undoubtedly lead to widespread civil unrest and bitter disputes in Congress.
The 20th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says that regardless of any issues electing the next administration, the current President and vice president’s terms end on January 20, at noon.
If successors have not been chosen, Trump and Vice President Mike Pence must still vacate their offices, which opens the door to a brief Pelosi presidency.
Al Gore didn’t officially lose the 2000 presidential election until December 13.
He only did so after the Supreme Court ended the Florida recounts already underway in Democratic-leaning counties.
While the former Vice President vehemently disagreed with the Court’s ruling, Gore conceded “for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy.”
Democratic leaders have been adamant throughout the election cycle that under no circumstance should Joe Biden ever concede to Donald Trump. They plan to fight tooth and nail until every option is exhausted – especially if Trump’s claim to victory comes on the heels of multiple court battles resulting in substantial vote disenfranchisement.
Why wouldn’t the 2020 election take at least as long to decide as Bush vs. Gore twenty years ago?
Look at everything that happened back then, and toss in:
- never-before-seen volumes of mail-in voting due to pandemic conditions,
- disruptions to the US Postal Service,
- conservative control over the courts, and
- levels of partisanship and animosity in U.S. politics the 2000 candidates never dreamed of.
President Nancy Pelosi +4000
At +4000, a “President Pelosi” lottery ticket isn’t the most foolish election wager around. Unless Joe Biden wins in a landslide, protracted legal battles and recounts are almost guaranteed over the next several months.
Then throw in the fact that the Speaker of the House is a force of pure evil with an unquenchable thirst for corruption and the acquisition of power, and I’ll probably be more surprised if Pelosi doesn’t end up becoming the President of the United States in January.
Once in the White House, she’ll suspend the constitution, declare martial law, ordain herself the nation’s Supreme Ruler – a lifetime appointment.
Just imagine – on the long march to your designated FEMA camp, you’ll need fun anecdotes and stories to share with the other detainees passing the time on the grueling forced march towards reeducation.
Just make sure you spend and enjoy it during the window of opportunity after Pelosi’s inauguration, but before she activates the Google-powered tactical drone swarms to enforce the curfew.