US Election: What happens if Donald Trump and Joe Biden tie?

Olivia Lambert
·News Editor
·3-min read

Both presidential nominees Joe Biden and Donald Trump are racing to secure 270 Electoral College votes to win the 2020 US election.

But with some states bracing for an unpredictable result, the likelihood of a tie isn’t completely out of the question.

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Who breaks a tie in a presidential election?

According to 270toWin – a political website that projects who will win presidential elections – if neither candidates reach 270, the president is decided in the House of Representatives.

In the event of a tie, both Biden and Trump would either win 269 electoral votes each, or another major candidate will swoop in and secure some, which would cause both the major candidates to fall short.

In the case of it going to a tie breaker, each state delegation for the House of Reps, sworn in on January 3, gets one vote for three candidates with the most votes.

The nominee then needs to secure a vote from the majority of states to win, or to put it simply, win at least 26 votes.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden participates in the final debate for the presidential election, which could end in a tie.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks during the final presidential debate. Source: Getty

The president has only been selected this way twice – in 1824, when Joe Quincy Adams defeated Andrew Jackson, and in 1800, when Thomas Jefferson defeated Aaron Burr.

But in an extreme case of that vote being contested, a state must flip their decision. If nobody budges by the time Inauguration Day rolls around on January 20, the vice president-elect will fill the shoes of the leader until the House of Reps can settle it.

So who then becomes the vice president-elect? Well that’s up to the Senate, with each senator voting for the vice president. Whoever wins the majority of votes will act in the top job. The candidate would need 51 to win.

Therefore, if state delegates can’t decide between Trump and Biden, the Senate will choose between Democrat Kamala Harris and Republican Mike Pence.

US President Donald Trump visits his campaign headquarters as a divided America could cause an election tie.
US President Donald Trump visits his campaign headquarters as Americans flock to the polls. Source: Getty

So what if there’s no vice president selected by Inauguration Day?

Well, then the Presidential Succession Act applies.

It says the speaker of the House of Representatives, the Senate president or a Cabinet officer, in that order, would act as president until there’s a president or vice president.

What happens in a 269-269 draw?

In the case both receive 269 electoral college votes, it doesn’t really change anything. According to 270toWin, the congress will meet on January 6, 2021, and count the electoral votes.

If still no candidate has reached the 270 electoral votes, it will fall into the hands of the House of Representatives and the Senate to make the decision.

It is not the current Congress that will make the decision, but the new Congress that will be sworn in on January 3.

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