What Happens If Neither Candidate Wins The Electoral College?

(AmericanPoliticalDaily.com)- The American presidential election is decided by the Electoral College and not by the national vote. This is a system whereby electors are appointed to states depending on population, with a view to ensuring that presidents cannot only campaign in states with higher populations and ignore the rest of the country.

It is a tried and tested system that has long guaranteed America is not defined by mob rule but has presidents that represent as wide a variety of national interests as possible.

To win, a presidential candidate must win a majority of the electoral college votes. By winning a state, a candidate wins those electoral college votes – but if neither candidate wins a majority of 270, it becomes a contingent election.

Have Contingent Elections Happened Before?

Yes, but not often. Contingent elections have only happened three times, and every single time it was during the 1800s. Contingent elections occurred in 1800, 1824, and 1836 – and each time, the decision was made based on various procedures as set out in the Constitution.

The fact that this is such a rare scenario shows the strength of the American electoral system, but as politics have become more divided in recent years, the issue of a contingent election is becoming more of a hot topic.

What’s the Process?

The 12th Amendment of the United States Constitution outlines how the House of Representatives decides the president in the event of a contingent election.

Members of the House immediately go into session after the electoral votes have been counted, and they will cast their vote for who should become the president. The House will be able to choose from the top three presidential candidates who received electoral college votes.

While today it’s more likely there will only be two candidates with electoral college votes, third-party candidates historically gained more support. That would explain why contingent elections are now so rare.

Each state delegation in the House will vote in a bloc, giving each state a vote – meaning the president isn’t decided by a simple majority vote. A candidate must receive an absolute majority of the votes from state delegations, meaning that the party controlling the House of Representatives could still potentially lose the presidential vote.

Once a presidential candidate receives an absolute majority from the House, that candidate will be elected president. Ideally, representatives in the House would vote based on the issues and who they feel had the most support in the election, but the representative way in which the House is elected means that even if voted based on party lines, the decision will have some democratic merit.