US Election is Close, What if There’s an Electoral College Tie?

If there is such a tie that takes place, the Constitution mandates that decision must rest with the Congress.

Updated
World
2 min read
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his Democratic rival Joe Biden.
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The 2020 US presidential elections have come down to the wire, with Republican Donald Trump and his Democratic rival Joe Biden neck-and-neck in five key states that can swing the results either way. This has given rise to the possibility, albeit very remote, that the electoral college of 538 electors would be tied at 269 vs 269.

So, what happens then? How does the United States of America choose its next president?

WHEN IN DOUBT, GO TO CONGRESS

If there is such a tie that takes place, the Constitution mandates that decision must rest with the Congress. While the House of Representatives gets to choose the president, the Senate gets to choose the vice president.

SO WHAT’S THE PROCEDURE LIKE IN THE HOUSE?

In case of such a tie, there are different procedures on how the House elects the president and how the Senate elects his/her deputy.

For the House, there are no individual votes. Rather each state delegation gets one vote, and a presidential candidate requires 26 such votes.

This means that one party simply having a majority in the House does not guarantee that its candidate is going to get chosen for president.

For instance, it is the Republican Party, which currently has the majority of delegates in 27 states right now, even though Democrats have overall control over the House. However, as this piece points out, in case of a tie, it will be the next Congress and not the current Congress that votes on the presidency.

And What About the Senate?

Things are much simpler in the Senate, where each senator gets one vote to select the vice president.

And it's very much a possibility that the president and vice president selected through these procedures may end being from different parties.

What if the Deadlock Continues?

If, in case of another remote possibility, no candidate is able to secure 26 votes in the House to become president, it's eventually the vice president who assumes charge as acting president, until the deadlock continues in the House.

And if a similar situation exists for the post of the vice president also, it's the House Speaker who gets the interim charge as the president.

(With inputs from Quartz and Brookings.)

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