As citizens of a constitutional republic, our constitution dictates our elected representative is chosen not by a national popular vote, but by an electoral college system in which the people of the country vote for delegates, and then in December all of those delegates go to cast their electoral votes to elect the next president of the United States. 270 electoral votes is the required number for a candidate to reach. If you need a full recap on the ins and outs of the electoral college system, you can find that here. The question I want to answer today is: What if neither Joe Biden nor Donald Trump reach the required 270 electoral votes required for victory?
This can take place via a number of scenarios: By a third party candidate splitting the vote to prevent another from getting 270, by key states refusing to certify their vote totals, or if there is simply a 269-269 electoral tie. If there is an electoral college deadlock this year, the mail-in voting system which will be in place during this election will likely be the cause. If President Trump were to disrupt the USPS in their ability to count the votes, or remove enough mailboxes in densely populated regions, key battleground states might refuse to certify their vote totals if the vote has not been accurately reflected. This is exceedingly unlikely, but this is a highly irregular election, and many political theorists are plotting for this scenario.
If neither candidate reaches 270 the election will be for Congress to decide. The House of Representatives will choose the President, and the Senate will, separately, choose the Vice President. While one would assume that whichever party controls a particular chamber of Congress would elect that party’s candidate, tIn the House of Representatives, the candidates are chosen by a majority of state delegations, not a majority of individual representatives. For example, Alaska’s single Representative casts a vote which carries the same weight as the vote cast by all of California’s 53 Representatives. In the Senate, however, the Vice President is chosen by a majority of Senators.
While the House of Representative is currently controlled by the Democrats, Republicans ultimately hold a greater number of state delegations, so if all Republicans voted accordingly with their party, the House would elect Donald Trump if this scenario were to take place. Since the Senate is controlled by the Republicans, they would presumably elect Mike Pence as Vice President accordingly.
Since an electoral college deadlock will more than likely result in a Trump presidency, many theorize that Trump’s attacks on the USPS are all part of a scheme to prevent battleground states from certifying, thus ensuring a deadlock. This has given renewed limelight to a large coalition of people advocating for the abolishment of the electoral college, Advocates for the system’s abolishment argue that a national popular vote instead deciding the presidency will prevent gerrymandering, disproportionate elections, and voter fraud.
(Footnote: If the Vice President is elected before the House comes to a decision, the Vice President assumes the role of Acting President of the United States until the House after the current president leaves office. If neither the Vice President or the President is chosen before the current president leaves office, the Speaker of the House assumes the role of Acting President.)