1) John Kerry wins both the popular vote and the electoral college vote by indisputably large numbers. Most people are confident that their vote actually was counted properly, and mattered. Few are disgruntled. No one is killed. There are no riots. The Republican Party smacks itself on the forehead with its palm and says “what were we thinking with that guy?” The GOP goes back to being a mild-mannered party of bowtie-wearing fiscal conservatives, myopic bankers, cautious privacy-minded types wary of hypocrisy who really could care less what you do in your bedroom. The rabid reactionary activist unilateralist treasury-robbing Roman-empire types all move to Texas, if they didn’t live there already. Texas secedes. No one minds.
2) John Kerry loses the popular vote, but wins the electoral college vote, despite all the secret creepy people’s best efforts to keep black people away from polling places, tweak the new polling machines in their favor, let dead people vote, etc. After a nightmarish month the case once again goes to the Supreme Court, which again makes a completely unjust decision, except this time, in Kerry’s favor. Everyone says, well, then, I guess we’re square, eh? Everyone is satisfied.
3) Same as the above, except the Supreme Court once again makes a completely unjust decision in Bush’s favor. People riot in the streets. People march on Washington with burning torches and pitchforks. Lots and lots of people die. Bush retires before taking office, because, fact is, he doesn’t have much stomach for all this kind of trouble, and Dick Cheney is sworn in in January. Cheney gives a very long inauguration speech in a bitter cold snowstorm only wearing a wifebeater T-shirt just to prove he’s a really macho and healthy guy, which it turns out he is, because he doesn’t immediately die of pneumonia, but rather, ironically, from a bee sting. Constitutional scholars reveal that under such circumstances, former Secretary of State Al Haig actually becomes president. Haig declares martial law. The United States invades Canada, just for fun.
4) Same as the above, except then New England, New York, and California declare that they’ve had it up to here, people, and subsequently secede from the Union. The rest of the country is like, fine, go, we never liked you anyway. According to the accord the two countries sign, the new one gets to take Interstate 80 with it, which is lifted with thousands of cranes 32 feet into the air so that it’s now a 3,000 mile long elevated highway, such that citizens of the old Republic can drive under it as they go about their business.
5) Ralph Nader, on the campaign trail, uncovers Osama Bin Laden, who all this time, it turns out, has been hiding in Cleveland. They engage in hand-to-hand combat, which is broadcast live to all major news networks. Nader kills Bin Laden, with a cry of “vengeance is mine!” But he is killed himself as well. Out of patriotic sympathy, millions of Americans vote Nader, despite the fact that the candidate is dead. None of the candidates, major or minor, living or dead, have the requisite 270 electoral college votes. The election is therefore thrown into the house, as stipulated by the Constitution. The lame-duck house gets together, smokes a bowl, and decides—throwing a weird bone to nonpartisanship—to elect redneck comedian Jeff Foxworthy President. President Foxworthy survives an impeachment, a coup, and an assassination attempt. Hillary Clinton narrowly defeats Foxworthy in 2008.
6) George W. Bush wins the popular vote and the electoral college vote. Both wins are fair and square. No votes are in dispute. Everyone got their chance. No one got killed, no one got arrested, there were no protests, there’s nothing that can be sued for. Democrats, liberals, people who pay attention to the news, and any reasonable human being are all a bit flabbergasted, to be perfectly honest, but instead of moving to Canada en masse—as they’ve all been threatening at various cocktail parties for some time now—millions of people all get together, and using the web as an organizing tool, decide to voluntarily redistribute themselves to all the thousands of voting precincts across the country in order to level the playing field, like a kind of gigantic collective act of political miscegenation, since with Bush as president for at least four more years—possibly more, you never know with these creeps—there’s no way in hell the Electoral College is ever going to be abolished any time soon, so in order for the vote of a Californian to no longer count as one-fourth that of a vote of a resident of Wyoming, the Los Angelian, well, simply has to move to Cheyenne. San Francisco real estate prices plummet. Billings real estate prices skyrocket. Nashua, New Hampshire becomes the new home of the Broadway theater. All New York City cop shows are now shot in Bennington, Vermont. Fargo, North Dakota becomes the art capital of the world. The island of Manhattan, for the first time in hundreds of years, is farm country. Real Manhattan-grown arugula turns out to be absolutely delicious.