The US Constitution requires selected electors to choose the President of the United States. Alexander Hamilton made the case for an electoral college system based on electors having access to information not available to the general public. It would take a herculean effort for the US to switch to a popular voting system.
There have been 538 electoral votes up for grabs since the 1964 election. Before then there was an odd number of electoral votes, which certainly makes a lot more sense than an even number of votes.
While most states give all of their electoral votes based on even a one vote margin in the state’s popular vote, Maine and Nebraska are notable exceptions.
Nebraska decided to split their electoral votes back in 1991 in order to get more attention from Presidential candidates. Candidates typically ignore non-competitive states, but Nebraska suddenly became competitive by splitting electoral votes by congressional district.
Maine split their electoral votes back in 1972 after a 3 way race between Nixon, Humphrey, and Wallace. They didn’t want to have a scenario where someone without a majority of the state popular vote would get all the electoral votes.
Those decisions are looming large this year. Had Nebraska awarded all 5 of their electoral votes to the popular vote winner, Trump would have a much easier path to victory. Of course that would be offset by Biden winning all of Maine.
Nebraska has unsuccessfully tried to change back to awarding all of their electoral votes to the popular vote winner many times since 1991, so their split vote system remains in place.
In 2016 Trump won Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District. Had Trump carried the district this year, a tie like the one below could have been a viable scenario:
I mentioned that possibility on this excellent DDF thread last night, but since then Nebraska’s 2nd district has been called for Biden.
That means assuming Biden wins Arizona, Trump will need more than just Georgia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania to win, as he would still lose by 1 electoral vote:
What happens if there’s a tie?
It would mean the election of the President goes to the House of Representatives and the election of the Vice President goes to the Senate.
However while each Senator would have a vote, in the House the vote would be by state delegation, which gives each state just one vote. Voting continues until one candidate gets 26 votes.
Despite pollsters saying they expected Democrats to win control of the Senate, it appears that Republicans may be able to retain control of the Senate and would pick the Vice President in case of a tie.
Currently, Republicans are in control of 26 state delegations and Democrats are in control of 23 state delegations. Pennsylvania has a tied delegation. However the next Congress will be the one to choose the President. It looks to me that Republicans will keep their 26 state delegations and would be the ones to pick the President in case of a tie.
Of course this assumes the electors vote as they’re supposed to and that there are no faithless electors, in which case all bets are off!
Could a tie still happen?
It’s highly unlikely, but there are paths to a tie, such as this long-shot:
But hey, it’s 2020 and anything can happen!
In all likelihood, it will be weeks until we definitively know who won as cases will be tied up in recounts and in the courts as we wait for final results in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. There will also be a recount in Wisconsin, though that seems like a long-shot for Trump to win. Trump is also asking the US Supreme Court to intervene in the Pennsylvania vote count.
The New York Times believes that Trump has an 86% chance to take North Carolina and Biden has a 64% chance to take Georgia. Losing Georgia would require Trump wins in Arizona, Nevada, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania just to achieve an electoral tie. Things certainly don’t look good for President Trump right now.
So, who do you think will ultimately prevail?