US elections: what happens if Trump and Biden tie?
Thursday, 05 November 2020
As the race to the White House continues between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, recent developments in the state of Georgia could cause an unusual turn of events.
In the US elections, citizens vote for an electoral college rather than for the candidates themselves. There are 538 electoral college votes up for grabs in total, 270 of which are needed to win the presidential election.
Biden is just over 18,000 votes away from defeating Trump in Georgia, with some 50,000 votes left to count. New results for Georgia are expected by 5:00 PM Belgian time.
Some states represent a higher number of electoral college votes than others. Whoever wins Georgia gets 16 electoral college votes.
If Biden wins Georgia, and Trump wins in Alaska (3 electoral college votes), Arizona (11 votes), Nevada (6), North Carolina (15) and Pennsylvania (20), both candidates would have 269 electoral college votes. That would mean neither candidate has the required 270 votes to win.
So what happens then?
“In these circumstances, the 12th amendment (…) provides that the House of Representatives would elect the President, and the Senate would elect the Vice President, in a procedure known as ‘contingent election’,” according to an analysis by the Congressional Research Service.
This has only happened twice before, according to the Congressional Research Service: once in 1825 to elect the President – John Quincy Adams, who served as sixth president of the United States until 1829 – and once in 1837 to elect the Vice President, Richard Mentor Johnson.
“Each state, regardless of population, casts a single vote for President in a contingent election,” according to the Congressional Research Service. “Representatives of states with two or more Representatives would therefore need to conduct an internal poll within their state delegation to decide which candidate would receive the state’s single vote.”
A candidate must then receive 26 votes or more to be elected.
When would that vote happen?
“A contingent election would be conducted by a newly elected Congress, immediately following the joint congressional session that counts and certifies electoral votes,” the analysis explains. This happens every year regardless of the result.
“This session is set by law for January 6 of the year following the presidential, but is occasionally rescheduled,” according to the analysis.