If There’s an Electoral College Tie, Things Will Get Even Crazier Than You May Know

Mitt Romney speaks with campaign staff on his campaign plane in Chantilly, Va., on Thursday.

Photo by Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images.

It hasn’t happened in 212 years.  But it might happen in two-and-a-half weeks: a presidential race ending in an Electoral College tie.

If Mitt Romney continues to pick up votes in the swing states, we are looking at the possibility that—whichever way the popular vote goes—the Electoral College will give 269 votes to Romney and 269 votes to President Obama.

Eleven states are still considered to be in play. The website 270towin calculates 32 possible combinations that could result in a tie. If that happens, America would get a complicated, tension-filled lesson in the Constitution—and a likely result that you would not believe.

Electoral map showing undecided states.
The 2012 election map showing the states still up for grabs

Map by Slate staff.


The decision about who will be the next president would get thrown to the House of Representatives—where each state gets just one vote apiece. That means the 29 members of Congress from New York would get one vote—the same number as the single member of Congress from Montana. Right after the new Congress got sworn in, in early January, all the House members from each state would decide how to cast that state’s one vote.


As you might guess, that would be bad news for Obama. The little-populated red states outnumber the highly-populated blue states. So even with a predicted Democratic pickup of about 10 seats in the new House of Representatives, the president would be expected to lose. As of now, Romney is expected to have 26 states in his corner—and the president can count on only 13. That’s one reason why some of these congressional races matter so much.

But that’s not even the crazy part. You see, the House does not choose the vice president. That decision goes to the Senate, which decides it by a simple vote. The Senate is—and is expected to remain—Democratic.

As a result, if there is a 269-269 tie in the Electoral College, the next president could be Mitt Romney. And the vice president would be Joe Biden. Wouldn’t that be fun!

Maybe it’s time for a constitutional amendment to rethink some of this.