What if Nobody Won the Electoral College?

No Winner?

Suppose there is no Winner to the Electoral College

We can, however, easily imagine two scenarios where there would be no majority winner:

  • One or more third party candidate receives some electoral votes, so no candidate has a majority, or
  • There is a tie of 269 electoral votes each between the democratic and Republican candidate.

In either of these cases, the newly elected house of Representatives will decide the presidential election, but the decision will not follow normal procedures. for example, in the current 116th house of Representatives, there is a majority in favor of the democrats, by 235 to 197, and as all normal matters are decided by one vote per Representative, the democratic majority generally controls the outcome. But in the unique case of the house deciding a presidential election, each state delegation gets a single vote, meaning that in such a vote, the single Representative in the house of Representatives from Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, south Dakota, Vermont or Wyoming, each of them has the same weight as all 53 Representatives from California. it also means that the usual majority of the house of Representatives may be irrelevant. Although in the current house the democrats have the majority of total members, in fact in 26 states, there are more Republican Representatives than democrats, with the democrats holding the majority in only 22 states (Michigan and Pennsylvania have an equal number of Representatives from each party), which means that had the presidential election been decided by the current house of Representatives, the current house would have elected the Republican candidate. this voting structure that applies in the event the presidential election does not provide an electoral college majority and the election therefore goes to the House of Representatives, once again reflects the Constitutional bias against a national democratic election, and specifically against populous states.

For the election of the vice-president, in the absence of a vice- presidential candidate with a majority of 270 electoral votes, the constitution provides for the senate to decide the vice-presidential election, with each senator having one vote, which again provides for an equal number of votes for each state, irrespective of population.

Can the Electoral College be Modified? the electoral college system is a matter of ongoing debate in the us. supporters argue that it is fundamental to American federalism, whereas critics complain that it disproportionately inflates the influence of rural areas while undervaluing the votes of cities and the votes of many non-white voters. they point out that when the us constitution was written, about 95% of the us population was rural, whereas today this figure is less than 20%, and that in 1790 the ratio of population between the most populous state, Virginia, and the least populous, Delaware, was 13 to 1, whereas the ratio today between the most populous, California, and the least populous state, Wyoming, is about 60 to 1. One recent poll indicates that 65% of Americans think the president should be elected by national popular vote. can the system be changed?

One way would be to amend the constitution, which typically requires for an amendment to be agreed to by a two-thirds majority of both houses of Congress and then ratified by three-fourths of the States (38 out of 50). over the past 200 years more than 700 proposals have been introduced in congress to reform or eliminate the electoral college (more than for any other change in the constitution), but none has ever been agreed to by two-thirds of both houses of congress, much less agreed to by three-fourths of the states.

A constitutional amendment on the subject in our lifetime appears more than unlikely.
It is conceivable that the system could be changed at the state level: since each state decides how it selects its electoral college votes, if states representing 270 electoral votes together agreed to direct their electors to vote for whoever has won the national popular vote, then the presidential election would reflect the popular vote. Democrats have been promoting the national popular vote pact, which does just that and which has been agreed to by 14 states and the District of Columbia, together representing 189 electoral votes. But to get to the magical 270 figure, it would require approval by some Republican dominated states, which is highly unlikely, and even if this system were approved by states representing 270 electoral votes, it would certainly be challenged in court, or possibly by the congress.

It seems America is going to have to continue to live with the complex, burdensome and not consistently democratic electoral college system.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash
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