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Nightmare scenario: What happens if there is an Electoral College tie?

Both the House of Representatives and the Senate will play a key role.
Thu Oct 29, 2020 - 4:29 pm EST
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WASHINGTON, D.C., October 29, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Nobody wants to think about it, but there is a very real possibility that the 2020 presidential election could result in a tie between incumbent Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden.  

A simple majority of electoral college votes — 270 to 268 — is required for a candidate to win the White House.  But it’s possible that in 2020 the country could end up with a 269-269 tie.

“While this scenario might seem unlikely, it was predictable enough to be included in the Constitution,” wrote David Mark, Political Analyst for NBC News. 

Eric Teetsel, legislative Director for Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), weighed in on Facebook about the possibility with a map demonstrating how that might occur. 

“I’m not predicting that this will happen, but this map isn’t crazy,” said Teetsel.  

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He offered a succinct explanation:

If there’s a tie in the Electoral College, the House of Representatives votes to determine the President from among the Top Two finishers. The Senate votes for the Vice President.”  

“But they don’t vote as individuals — in which case the Democratic-controlled House would vote for Biden — they vote as state delegations. Republicans currently have a majority of Representatives in 26 states, but it’s the next Congress that votes. So if Democrats win over a majority in one delegation and it’s tied then what?

The Vice President is President until the House figures it out.

The website 270toWin lays out in more detail the mechanisms that would kick into action according to Article 2, Section 1, Clause 3 of the 12th Amendment to the Constitution:

If neither candidate gets a majority of the 538 electoral votes, the election for President is decided in the House of Representatives, with each state delegation having one vote. A majority of states (26) is needed to win. Senators would elect the Vice-President, with each Senator having a vote. A majority of Senators (51) is needed to win.

Thus, whichever party has the most members elected to the House of Representatives becomes inconsequential, while the number of state delegations the parties control rises to supreme importance.

Whether or not the election is close, Congress will meet on January 6, 2021 to conduct an official count of the 2020 electoral votes. If the vote is tied, both houses will do what the Constitution has tasked them to do. 

Since this vote would take place after the newly elected & reelected members of the 117th Congress have been seated after the start of the new year, the vote of the congressional delegations is not as easily predictable as it sounds.

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At the moment, Republicans control 26 House state delegations and Democrats control 23, while one state’s delegation, Pennsylvania, is tied with equal members of both parties. But that composition could change and have a major impact on who occupies the White House in the event of a tie.     

If the 117th Congress of the United States ends up with Republicans and Democrats splitting control of House state delegations 25-25, the constitution requires them to keep voting until a winner is selected.  If no winner is chosen by Inauguration Day, January 20, 2021, then the Vice President selected by the Senate will be designated as “Acting President” until the state delegations arrive at a compromise vote. 

If Republicans continue to maintain control of a majority of House delegations after the November 3 election, President Trump would remain in office. If Democrats manage to flip control of just three state delegations next week, then Joe Biden sits behind the desk in the oval office.  

Similarly, if Republicans maintain their majority in the Senate, Mike Pence would maintain his position. If Democrat Senators were to outnumber Republicans after the election, then Kamala Harris will be the next Vice President.  

“In the 21st century we have had two elections where the winner of the popular vote did not become president because of the Electoral College,” sighed Elaine Kramarck, Founding Director of the progressive Brookings Institute’s Center for Effective Public Management. 

“Perhaps it is time to abandon the Electoral College for once and for all before we get into another mess,” she suggested.  

Kramarck’s dismay is understandable, because in both those cases — in 2000, George Bush v. Al Gore, and in 2016, Donald Trump v. Hillary Clinton — the electors chose the candidate who lost the popular vote.


  congress, constitution, donald trump, electoral college, electoral college tie, eric teetsel, house of representatives, joe biden, senate

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