Getting Republicans into the House is as crucial as getting Trump re-elected

Few Americans doubt that this year will result in a contested election.  The Republicans are preparing to go to court, while the Democrats are threatening to take to the streets and bring in the military.  Under either scenario, there's the real possibility that the House of Representatives will ultimately decide who will be America's next president.  Moreover, what most people don't realize is that their votes for the upcoming term of the House of Representatives will affect the vote's outcome.

It's relatively common knowledge that if the Electoral College cannot return a majority vote for president, then the House of Representatives is the body charged with selecting which of the three top candidates will become president.  When Americans think about this procedure, most probably assume that, because the Democrats hold the House, a House vote inevitably means a Biden victory.

That assumption is wrong.

The Twelfth Amendment, which defines the procedure for a House vote, makes explicit that this is not an ordinary vote, with each member of the House having a say.  Instead, each state gets only one vote (emphasis mine):

But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. (U.S. Const., Amendment 12, Clause 3.)

Although the Democrats have the majority of House members, under the "one vote per state" rule, the current House (the 116th Congress) would almost certainly end up voting for Trump.  Reviewing the list of current members of the United States House of Representatives reveals that many purple states, despite having Democrat senators or even having sent Democrats to the Electoral College, actually have more Republican House members than Democrat House members.

Currently, 27 states have sent more Republicans than Democrats to the House.  It's true that the big blue states give Democrats a majority for regular House business.  However, under the Twelfth Amendment, it's the Republicans who have the all-important majority for selecting the president.

Unfortunately, if the election ends up before the House, it may not be the favorably composed 116th Congress that will cast the determining vote.  Should the purple states elect more Democrat than Republican House members, Nancy Pelosi can hold off on having the House decide the election until the new House members are seated.

Here's how that works: under the Twentieth Amendment, congressional terms end and begin on January 3, over two weeks before the newly elected president assumes office on January 20:

The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3d day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.

Nancy Pelosi knows that, under the Twelfth Amendment, the House has until March 4 to cast its vote for president.  If the 117th Congress is the same as the 116th Congress — that is, 27 states have more Republican than Democrat members — Trump wins no matter what.  However, if there's a shift within the states, so that just two more states return a majority of Democrat members, then Pelosi will refuse to hold the vote for president during the 116th Congress and wait, instead, for the new House members to be seated.

If the House ends up having to decide the election, it's the political allegiance of those House members returned for the 117th Congress that will determine who becomes the president of the United States.  The practical implication is that every House vote is more critical than one has ever been in our lifetimes.

Conservatives naturally want to retake the House, so there is some incentive to make sure to vote for the Republican candidate in each voter's House district.  This year, though, the urgency is even greater.

Conservatives must understand as they vote on November 3 that even one Republican House member in their state could make the difference between a Biden versus a Trump presidency.  If just one or two districts in a purple state switch to the Democrats, that could throw the House to Biden.

Your vote has never been more important.  Do whatever you can to vote in person so that you know that your vote will be counted.  And when you fill out your ballot, make extra sure that, in addition to voting for the Trump/Pence ticket, you also vote for the Republican candidate for the House of Representatives.

Image: United States House of Representatives.  Public domain.

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