What Happens If the Electoral College Is Tied 269-269?

not a braves fan eitherNational ArchivesA United States presidential election has never ended in a tie in the electoral college. The last time no candidate secured a majority of electors was in 1824, when Andrew Jackson fell some 32 electoral votes short of an outright majority but atop a field of four candidates. The decision was thrown to a contingent election, per the Constitution, as revised by the Twelfth Amendment. Contingent elections are settled in the Congress, with the House voting for president (one state, one vote) and the Senate for vice president (one senator, one vote). John Quincy Adams, the establishment candidate, won on the first ballot in Congress. He was joined though by Jackson’s running mate as vice president. When John Calhoun was re-elected vice president in 1828 with Jackson taking the presidency, he joined George Clinton as the only vice president to serve under two presidents. The South Carolina politician had a falling out over nullification with Jackson toward the end of the latter’s first term and was dumped from the ’32 ticket. The presidential contest has not been decided by contingent election since.

but which one looks like a president?Museum of TV & RadioIn the last hundred years, only a handful of elections came down close enough in the electoral college that they could’ve ended up without any candidate winning a majority of electors with a swing of just a few thousand votes; 1960, 1976, and 2000 and 2004. David Leip has “what if” scenarios for those elections at USElectionAtlas.org. For example, 1960 involves about 10,000 votes in Illinois and Missouri swinging from Kennedy to Nixon.

Nate Silver placed the odds of an electoral college tie at .6 percent last month, based on several maps he outlines that are within the realm of possibility and end in a tie. Many rely on Maine’s 1st district to go for Romney, giving him an extra electoral vote and unlocking several new configurations of battleground states that would end in a tie. Nevertheless the most likely tie relies on Romney winning neither Maine’s 2nd congressional district elector nor New Hampshire. It’s not a surprising map at all except for its total:

game over, manRCP

Such a result would be thrown to Congress, with each state’s House delegation being allowed to choose from among the top three vote getters in the electoral college. A third candidate could emerge without winning a state if a “faithless elector” decides to cast their vote for someone other than to whom they were pledged. Not all states have laws against faithless electors, and those laws that do exist remain legally untested. Several states, too, have entered a compact that pledges their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote, but that agreement does not go into effect until enough states have signed on to wield a majority (they have 132 electoral votes with 9 states, including California and Illinois, signed on). It’s unlikely any state would step in to alter its electoral vote to avoid a tie, as it would require sending electors
to vote for a candidate other than the one that won the vote in that state. Since the GOP takeover the House in 2010, Republicans hold a majority of state delegations in the House of Representatives, meaning a contingent election would likely end up electing Mitt Romney president. The Senate meanwhile, is held by Democrats and would presumably vote for Joe Biden in the case of a tie, making him the third vice president to serve under two presidents and keeping his path to 2016 open.

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  • DJF||

    Thunderdome? Two men enter,one man leaves!

  • John Thacker||

    Enjoyed the alt-text.

    Note that while it's true as you say that the presidential contest has not been decided by a contingent election since 1832, the vice-presidential contest was decided by the Senate in 1836.

  • Ed||

    Yeah, the Senate had a decent explainer on that: www.senate.gov/artandhistory/h.....sident.htm

  • John Thacker||

    You mean the one that was already linked in my comment? Thanks. :)

  • Ed||


  • Certified Public Asskicker||

    Ha, 69...

  • Randian||

    What Happens if the Electoral College is Tied 269-269?

    Epic lulz, that's what.

  • Pro Libertate||

    President Paul!!!! Ah, ha, ha, ha!!!!

    No, not really.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Darn you, got my hopes up!

    Are the Congressional decisions dependent on who was actually running? What is the House said, "Screw Romney, Ron Paul would be better." It would get more of the Democrats on board.

    About as probable as this going to the House, anyway.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Or is Gary Johnson as a "compromise" too much to hope for?

    I'll answer myself: absolutely too much.

  • Rich||

    "Fiscally conservative; socially liberal" -- the perfect compromise.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    For us, yes. Congress, on the other hand...well, let's just say reelection is going to be an uphill battle.

  • robc||

    Im hoping that if Romney squeaks out a win, Paul gets enough votes from faithless electors to deny Romney 270, and it gets thrown to the House.

    Someone Paul calls in some favors and wins!

    At least until later tonight, I am still holding out hope.

  • BarryD||

    Who owes Paul any favors?

  • Pro Libertate||

    I think this is highly unlikely. I'm surprised how much press the tie scenario has been getting.

  • Rich||

    What Happens if the Electoral College is Tied 269-269?

    My reaction.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    Penalty Kicks!

  • Enough About Palin||

    "he joined George Clinton"


  • Mike Laursen||

    Holy shit! George Clinton was Veep?!

  • ChrisO||

    Yes, he served under President Muhammad Ali.

  • rho||

    I'd vote for that.

  • BarryD||

    It was much more like a parliamentary system, then.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    OT: What's with Reason offering suggestions in a box after the articles? Was it some kind of ultimatum from the advertisers?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I am adding my boos to that as well. That box is formatted like an error dialogue. I see it and think I've done something wrong.

    Also, who is that box to tell me what I should like?

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Libertarians don't need boxes telling them how to feel!

  • BarryD||

    My good Scotches come in boxes.

  • LifeStrategies||

    Couldn't agree more! Shouldn't all people have the freedom to make up their own minds?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    The Soviets swoop in, that's what happens.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Like in that Sam Neill/Kris Kristofferson miniseries?

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Sounds like a plan. Do we need John Nash to tell us the entry points, or should I just get the Wolverines on speed-dial?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Um, I think as long as Chuck Norris is still around we'll be just fine.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    He'll hold the line, but those of us on the other side will have the vicious Cuban hordes to deal with.

  • kinnath||

    Four years of Romney with Biden running the Senate.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    So many lulz, so many salty ham tears. I don't think I could take it. I would be the first human being to die from a joygasm.

  • NoVAHockey||

    if your schadenboner lasts more than 4 hours ...

  • Doktor Kapitalism||


  • RPR2||

    he joined George Clinton as the only vice president two serve under two presidents

    and a Parliament

  • The Late P Brooks||

    What happens?

    The referee reviews the tape and says, "Tie goes to the incumbent."

  • ChrisO||

    Y'know, it's about time the word "huzzah" made a comeback.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    "Huzzah is back, huzzah!"

  • Rich||

    "Huzzah! Tar and feathers for that scallywag gentleman!"

  • R C Dean||

    Aren't there some states that dole out their EC votes by district or something? Would that make a tie (oh, frabjous day!) more or less likely?

    Seriously, the hullabaloo, chin-pulling, partisan anguish, and all-around lulz would make this my preferred outcome.

    Plus, we would get to keep Unca Joe as Veep. Really, its a win-win.

  • Pro Libertate||

    He should be named VP for life.

  • Rich||

    VP In Charge Of Gaffes

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Central Gaffes Officer?

    Every company needs one. Biden's going to have bonanza of private sector options when this is all over in '24.

  • NoVAHockey||

    Nebraska and Maine. IIRC, Obama took a congressonal district in NE and got a EC vote out of it.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    What he said, more concisely.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Maine and Nebraska give some of their votes by district, and then two to the overall winner. Thus, in Maine, Romney could win the rural district 2, Obama district 1, and Obama getting two more points because there are more people in district 1.

  • robc||

    1 and 2 are very close in size, its one of the rules of redistricting.

    1 might be larger, but its negligible.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Actual research, how does that work?

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Obama will offer to concede if Romney appoints him to the Supreme Court. Romney agrees, and instead makes Obama Ambassador-for-Life to Libya.

  • wingnutx||

    Let the Wookie win.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    How do we tell which one is in the suit?

  • Killazontherun||

    What kind of sick mind enjoys thinking about Electoral College ties before they actually happen? I bet you do bookie odds at dog fights, Ed.

  • tagtann||

    What would happen igf NO ONE showed up to vote?


  • ||

    This might be even more fun than the hoped-for EC/popular vote split.


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