To become president, a candidate must obtain a majority (270 electoral votes).
Each state's electoral votes equals the number of its congressional districts, plus its two senators (plus Washington D.C.'s three). Every state has at least three electoral votes. California has the most (55) electoral votes.
When voting for president, you actually are voting for a slate of Electoral College representatives pledged to support your candidate. Every few years there is a debate about doing away with the Electoral College.
The 2016 election is one of the craziest and most unpredictable ever:
- Polls show Trump and Hillary have historically high unfavorability ratings. Further, voters show record dissatisfaction with both major party's candidates.
- The polls show a tightening race. Depending on the poll, Trump has moved from way behind to close, tied, or even leads.
- Will third party candidates impact this election? Polls show voters are very open to third party candidates.
- Gary Johnson is at/or near double-digits in many polls. It is plausible he could reach the threshold for inclusion in the debates.
- Last month, The Commission on Presidential Debates advised debate sites to submit plans for three-podiums.
- An invitation to participate in the debates is equivalent to a wild-card playoff berth. Anything can happen: Including winning enough states to prevent Hillary or Trump from obtaining the 270 electoral votes necessary to win. It's happened before.
The House elected the president twice (1800 and 1824) because no candidate received a majority of electoral votes. Two additional elections were disputed although not decided in the House. In 1876 the results of several states were in question.
A specially appointed panel resolved the matter one day before Inauguration Day, giving the presidency to Rutherford Hayes, even though he lost the popular vote. Similarly and most memorably, following the 2000 election, Al Gore challenged the results in Florida.
Without the state's 25 electoral votes neither Gore nor George W. Bush had the 270 electors required. After weeks of recounts, and “hanging chads” the Supreme Court awarded Florida (and the presidency) to Bush.
Other third party candidates have come close to sending elections to the House. In 1948 Sen. Strom Thurmond won 39 electoral votes. Had he taken 36 more from Harry Truman, the House would have decided the presidency.
Similarly, in 1968 Governor George Wallace won 46 electoral votes.
With just 32 more from Richard Nixon, the House would have decided.
The electors meet in their individual state capitols, to vote for president and vice president (Dec. 19 this year). The electoral votes are counted before a joint session of Congress on January 6.
If no candidate receives a majority of electoral votes, the 12th Amendment specifies; the House of Representatives immediately goes into session to elect the president.
However, it's the new Congress elected Nov. 8, and sworn in three days earlier, on Jan. 3 voting. While most political analysts believe Republicans will retain control of the House, “conventional wisdom,” has frequently been wrong this year.
The House chooses from the three candidates receiving the most electoral votes, but 435 Representatives don’t vote individually. Each state delegation has one vote, and they vote as a block. A candidate must receive an absolute majority of state delegation votes (at least 26 votes) to win.
Readers likely know how the “red-blue" map varies over recent elections, but it looks rather different when you color it red (Republican) or blue (Democrat) based on the majority party of each state's congressional delegations.
Republicans have majorities in 33 states, Democrats in 15 (2 tied). If the presidency is decided by the House, it's an advantage for Republicans. One caveat, these numbers represent the current Congress. Again, members elected Nov. 8 would elect the president, should it be necessary.
Many blue/swing states become safely Republican. Including Pennsylvania, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Virginia, Florida — ground zero of the 2000 controversy, and the bellwether state of Ohio. Each has solid Republican majority delegations.
No red state has a majority Democratic delegation. If no candidate wins 270 electoral votes, absent a seismic change in the House and state delegations this November, House Republicans would select the next president.
If it happens, who would those running to represent you in Congress vote to elect president? It's a question worth asking. As you're deciding whether to vote at all this year, consider that it's plausible the newly minted House of Representatives ends up electing the president.
Andy Bloom is a former communications director for Rep. Michael R. Turner, R-Ohio, and as operations manager has overseen content for talk radio 1210 WPHT, Philadelphia for the past eight years. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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