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What happens if the U.S. Presidential Election is tied?

By Edited Oct 22, 2015 0 0

The United States picks its president every 4 years through the the Electoral College.  Contrary to all modern day logic the Presidential election is not decided by popular vote but instead each state gets a predetermined number of Electoral Votes.  In total the Electoral College has 538 total votes distributed to the 50 United States, and Washington DC.  To ultimately become president you need to win a majority of Electoral College votes meaning 270 or more.  

Now although a tie is unlikely, the fact remains that because 538 is an even number….so what happens if the race for president is tied 269–269? 

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Credit: Fox News

 No big deal…right?  I mean I am sure the founding fathers came up with a wildly outdated 18th century solution to the problem.

Rest assured that If the Electoral College is tied, the House of Representatives breaks that tie.

so we are saved right? 


As the name so aptly implies, the “House” is filled with elected representatives from each of the states.  The more people in a state, the more Representatives it has and we have 435 Representatives in total.

An odd number of House Representatives guarantees a tie breaker right?

Once again….Wrong.

Here is the catch: each representative doesn't get one vote, it's each State that gets one vote. 

So for example take, Florida which has 27 representatives who amongst themselves must vote and reach a consensus about who they are going to support with their one vote.

Whilst a populous state like Florida casts their one vote a sparsely populated state such as Nebraska has it's one vote weighted just as heavily.  Leading to a very out of whack system because out of the fifty United Stated the ten most populous Pennsylvania, Texas, New York, Ohio, Michigan, California, Florida, Illinois, Georgia, and North Carolina hold more then half of the countries population yet in the event of an Electoral College tie they hold only around 20 percent of the total votes for president.  Whereas the numerous other less densely populated states containing less then half of the voting population, control the remaining 80 percent of tie breaking votes.

This incredibly disproportionate system is also used when there are more than two candidates running for president, and none of them get the required majority of the Electoral College.

Electoral College(120061)

Now Imagine he gets a few Electoral College votes not many, but just enough to block the other two more popular candidates from getting a majority.  Using our current system the election would go to the House who would decide the winner, and in the House the 26 smallest states representing just 17 percent of the population picks their man as president against the best wishes of the remaining 83 percent of Americans who didn't vote for him.

Although unlikely, this scenario is possible…and that is precisely what happened in 1824 when Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, William H. Crawford, and Henry Clay failed to gain a majority in Electoral votes. 

Although Andrew Jackson won the popular vote, and collected the most Electoral votes ›99‹ out of the 131 needed to win.  The race was then decided by the House of Representatives, who by voting as states picked John Quincy Adams instead.

Need I explain that In a modern America with even more states a three-way race could have even more outrageously disproportionate results…

So all this talk of presidents and elections has left the often overlooked Vice President unmentioned.  Most people would assume that just as with a regular election a Vice President is elected along with their running mate the President…wrong again…

When we have a tied election the Senate picks the Vice President completely separate from the choice of President.  Meaning that we could end up with a President from one party and a Vice President from another.  Which only adds to the confusion and bureaucracy already rampant in this system.  Alas even this ridiculous tie “resolving” system is not guaranteed to work because there is an even 100 members of the senate and in the House of Representatives they are forced to vote as an even 50 states.  Further more many of those states have 10 or more representatives making the whole system ridiculously complicated and needlessly confusing because of all of those irritating even numbers!

So seemingly waiting in the wings to throw a grenade in your already melted mind….remember that if the House can't pick a president but the Senate does pick a Vice President then newly picked Vice President becomes an interim president until the House can pick a President….confusing, I know…

To add another layer of bureaucratic mind melting awesomeness…keep in mind that if neither the House can pick a president nor the Senate can decide a Vice President then the perpetual brides maid of Presidential power the “Speaker of the House” becomes president.  Or at least until either branch of congress finally makes up their mind and picks someone….anyone.

So as it stands this is our current system to“quickly” and “efficiently” resolve a tied race for the Presidency of the United States…although if you ask me a a few sharpened sticks and an epic fight to the death may be more entertaining and effective…

…or of course you could just have a national popular vote meaning one ballot equals one vote with the winner of the most votes being declared President…but that would be needlessly complicated and inefficient…right?



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