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Electoral Chaos: Here's What Happens if No Candidate Earns the 270 Electoral Votes Needed to Become President


"... complex and confusing and would no doubt put us in a crisis if it actually happened."

Image Source: TheBlaze.com

November 8, 2016 is election day in America. While all the votes should be tabulated before midnight on that Tuesday, there is a possibility — albeit a remote one — we won't know who the next president is until sometime in January 2017.

The lack of a clear winner only happens if no candidate wins enough states to collect 270 or more electoral votes.

According to the 12th Amendment of the Constitution, if no candidate earns at least 270 electoral votes, the House of Representatives will assemble and select a president-elect from the top three electoral vote getters.

How the House of Representatives makes this choice is also a little different. Instead of 435 individual votes typically cast by the House when voting on legislation, each state's delegation selects a candidate. Meaning, the House will have just 50 votes to cast. Only 26 votes would decide the president-elect in the case of an electoral tie or a situation where no candidate earns the required 270 votes.

[sharequote align="center"]"... would no doubt put us in a crisis ..."[/sharequote]

The Senate has the responsibility to vote for a vice president-elect, with each senator choosing a vice president from the top two vote getters. A simple majority of senators voting for one candidate will decide who becomes vice president-elect.

Adding more complications to this potentially chaotic situation, House and Senate votes would not happen until after the new Congress meets in January. This means if control of the House or Senate shifts in the November election, myriad possibilities exist.

For example, if the House stayed in Republican control and the Senate shifted to the Democrats, we could see a Republican president-elect and a Democratic vice president-elect.

Additionally, should the House fail to agree on a president-elect, balloting will continue until one person earns the needed 26 votes.

Plus, if the House voting extends beyond the scheduled Inauguration Day of January 20, the Senate-selected vice president-elect would be sworn in as acting president until the House comes to a decision.

Watch Dr. David Redlawsk, chairman of the political science department at the University of Delaware explain the process that's triggered when no clear electoral winner emerges — something Redlawsk calls "complex and confusing and would no doubt put us in a crisis if it actually happened."

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