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July 15, 1980 - Image 4

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Michigan Daily, 1980-07-15

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P,.e 4-Tuesdanv. Julv 15.1980-The Michiann Dailv

Could House of Reps
name next president?

4

No backing down
On aid to Der
pRESIDENT CARTER, in his Detroit meeting
with auto leaders last week, outlined a plan
which would ease regulations on the faltering in-
dustry while looking into what can be done about
the booming import business eating away at
American car production.
The President'sfDetroit visit can be interpreted in
various ways. Maybe he attempted to save some
face in a city which blames him for soaring in-
flation, and high unemployment. Possibly, Carter
was sincere in his effort to help the auto industry.
We can only wait and see whether Carter follows up
on his plans.
But some of the Carter plan spells calamity for.
those who want a clean environment. He is calling
for a relaxation of standards regulating auto
emissions and worker exposure to lead and ar-
senic. He also called for the Department of Tran-
sportation to halt the issuance of major safety
rules. These offerings are sure to save the
automakers a hefty sum of money. But despite the
depressive state of the auto industry, Carter must
not sacrifice the achievements for which environ-
mgntalists and consumer activists have been
fighting long and hard.
It is incumbent upon the President to develop a
comprehensive plan, which would not only offer
assistance to those out of work, but also offer long-
term help to the ailing industry. This means con-
fronting the Japanese with the sensitive issue of
automobile imports, which he has thus far failed to
do. Also, he m'ust work diligently to see his plans
through. If n t, darter's Detroit visit will only be
seen as a politic il play, and his desire to help the
auto industry can only be interpreted as
meretricious.

As the Republican Convention
gets under way this week in
Detroit, the long process of
choosing the presidential can-
didates is at least near an end. All
attention will soon turn to the
November 4th general election,
in which over 80 million citizens.
are expected to participate. Yet
the pssibility now looms on the
horizon that the final choice will
be made not by the voters but
rather by the 435 members of the
House of Representatives. The
reason, of course, is the indepen-
dent candidacy of Rep. John An-
derson. According to the Con-
stitution, a candidate needs to
win over half of the votes in the
Electoral College to
automatically be declared the
winner. But if Anderson manages
to finish on top in just one state,
and hence receive all of its elec-
toral votes, theresult may be that
no one will have a majority.
Should this occur,, the
possibilities for intrigue and
behind-the-scenes maneuvering
are endless.
In the first place, it should be
noted that the electors who are
pledged to .vote for a particular
candidate cannot be stopped
from voting for whomever they
please. This was most recently
demonstrated in 1976 when one
elector-pledged to Gerald
Ford-decided instead to cast his
vote for Ronald Reagan. In ad
dition, it is possible that one of the
three candidates may ask his
electors to vote for one of his op-
ponents, thereby playing the role
of King maker. Thus, before the
election is forced into the House,
the candidates can deal with each
other to obtain the votes
necessary for a majority. Most
accounts of the 1968 election
agree that George Wallace never
intended to let the election reach
the House, but rather hoped to
throw his votes to either Nixon or
Humphrey in return for a number
of major policy concessions.
Barring any such intercan-
didate bargaining, the House of
Representatives would then be
called upon to choose a president
from among the top three vote
getters in the Electoral College.
Thus, at least new candidates
would not be able to enter the pic-
ture and confuse things any more
than they already would at this
point. However, there is no
guarantee that the House would
be able to reach a decision: while
the Democrats are almost cer-
tain to maintain their majority of
seats, the Constitution stipulates
that the votes for president shall
be cast by state delegations in-
stead of each member in-
dividually. Thus, all of
Michigan's 19 representatives
must meet to decide for whome to
cast Michigan's vote, which will
count just as much as the vote
cast by the single representative
from Alaska.
Currently, the Democrats con-
trol 29 state delegations in the
House compared to 12 for the

By Marty Wattenberg
Republicans, while nine states
are evenly divided. In order for a
candidate to win the election in
the House, he will need the votes
of 26 states-one more than a
majority. Therefore, if the
Democrats lose control of just
four state delegations in the 1980
election, the stage would. be set
for countless ballots by t' aHouse
with no candidate being able- to
achieve the required minimum
number of votes. Considering
that there are 10 states in which
the shift of only one seat would
result in a Democrataic majority
being transferred into either a
deadlock or a Republican edge,
such a possibility is quite real if
the election reaches the House.
Should the House become
deadlocked, then the pressures
on individual congresspersons
who come from states which are
closely divided, or for whom they
are the sole representative,
would become enormous. In both
previous cases in which the
House was forced to choose the
president=1800 and 1824-the ac-
tions of a single member were
crucial to the outcome. Imagine
the media attention a represen-
tative would attract today if it
became clear that his or her vote
might determine who the next
president is. Also, under such
circumstances it is conceivable
that the outcome might
ultimately come down to
something like whether one
congresspersoncan make it
through a traffic jam on In-
dependence Avenue in time to
vote, or whether a dying member
can be brought in on a stretcher
to cast a decisive vote.
While the House is trying to
pick a president, it is up to the
Senate to elect a new vice
president from among the top
three electoral vote winners for
that job. This assumes enormous
importance if the House is still
deadlocked by inauguration day,
because the vice president would
then be sworn in as acting
president until the House is able
to come to a decision, which could
be a very long time. Right now
the Democrats hold a comfor-
table edge of eight seats in the
Senate, but 24 Democratic
senators are up for re-election,
and many of these are liberals
who are likely to be especially
vulnerable this year. Therefore,
the possibility exists that
whomever Ronald Reagan
chooses to be his running mate
this week may assume the
presidency while Reagan's
position remains in limbo. This
also brings up the possibility that
once the House and the Senate
have reached their respective
decisions we may have a
president of one party and a vice
president from the other. And
finally, in the unlikely event that
both the House and the Senate

become deadlocked, the
speaker of the House would
become acting president until
either a president or vice
president could be chosen.
But before you pack your bags
and decide to leave the country
until the whole messy situation is
settled, a few notes of caution
should be offered. Most experts
agree that at the present time the
most likely scenario is that the
next president will be selected by
a majority of votes in the Elec-
toral College. As noted at the out-
set of this article, Anderson will
have to win at least one state
(and probably more) to throw the
election into the House. While the
most recent polls show that An-
derson currently has ap-
proximately one-fifth of the
popular vote, this by no means
indicates that he will carry ap-
proximately one-fifth of the
states.
Unlike George Wallace in 1968,
who carried five southern states
with just 13.5 per cent of the
national vote, Anderson's support
is fairly well-distributed
geographically. In a three-way
race with Reagan and Carter, the
most recent CBS/New York
Times polldshows Anderson
finishing a distant third in all
regions of the country. His
prospects look particularly dim
in the South, Midwest and
Western areas, where he trails'
frontrunner Reagan by roughly
25 per cent in each. It would seem
that the East will be where An-
derson will have his best shot at
electoraYvotes, but even in this
part of the country he is currently
12 per cent behind Reagan and
nine per cent behind Carter.
On top of his current weakness
in the polls, Anderson must also
overcome the general tendency
for support of independent can-
didates to erode as election day
approaches. Past experience has
shown that about one-third to one-
half of those who express an early
preferende for a third party can-
didate end up voting for one of the
two major parties. There is little
reason at this time to suspect that
the Anderson support will be very
different. Melvin Field, a well-
known California pollster, com-
pares Anderson's position to a
simple law of physics-that mat-
ter can either rise on its own
power or be sucked up by a
vacuum. "There's no question
that Anderson is up there because
he's not Ronald Reagan or Jim-
my Carter," says Field.
- Nevertheless, the presence of
three candidates this year once
again reminds us of the possible
dangers associated with the elec-
tion ending up in the House. As
Thomas Jefferson, one of the two
presidents elected by the House
once said, it is "the most
dangerous blot in our Con-
stitution."
Marty Wattenberg is a grad-
uate student in the Depart-
ment of Political Science.

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