The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Friday, October 22, 2004

What price President Pelosi?

In the game of Fantasy Electoral College, anything is possible. Even though Colorado's Proposition 36 seems to be sliding into the toilet , with all those new registrants, it will only take half a dozen states reasonably close in the popular vote for it to be plausible that the process will get mired in legal challenges.

And, with the intervention of Christmas, it is possible that this litigation would be far from settled by January 20.

The 20th Amendment provides that
the Congress may by law provide for the case wherein neither a President elect nor a Vice President elect shall have qualified, declaring who shall then act as President, or the manner in which one who is to act shall be selected, and such person shall act accordingly until a President or Vice President shall have qualified.

And that law - the Presidential Succession Act of 1948, now 3 USC 19 - provides that
If, by reason of...failure to qualify, there is neither a President nor Vice President to discharge the powers and duties of the office of President, then the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall, upon his resignation as Speaker and as Representative in Congress, act as President.

Now, although my sense is that the GOP should retain the House, their chances of losing control must be several times greater than there being no Prez or Veep ready to take their oaths on January 20.

So why not a pro tem President Pelosi? Which might not be wholly welcome to the woman in question, unless her seat in the House, and Speakership, could be kept warm for her. And if the legal wrangling continued into next summer, that might not be possible. (I'm not sufficiently motivated to research the point - yet.)

Looking on the bright side, though, if Pelosi got the gig, we could look forward to yet another movie from daughter Alexandra...

Of course, we have penetrated deep into Drutherland here: one prediction currently has Kerry winning 301-237 - leverage is intrinsic to the electoral college method.

But it could happen...


The rules for filling any vacancy in the House of Representatives are supplied by the state in which the district concerned is located.

(Why state law should regulate Federal elections I have always found bizarre - but there you go.)

In the case of La Pelosi, the applicable law would be the California Elections Code ยงยง10701-10703, under which
  1. the Governor must proclaim a special election within 14 days of a vacancy arising; and

  2. the election must be held on the Tuesday falling between the 112th and 119th day following the proclamation.

Supposing Pelosi resigned on January 20 to become President, and Schwarzenegger proclaimed immediately: by my calculations, that would make election day May 17 2005.

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