Wry & Dry

Exclusive: No-one could win the US presidential election

It is entirely possible that no candidate will win the ballot for US President on Tue-8-Nov.  Which, given the two main candidates, will bring much relief to the world.  But the relief will only be temporary.  There is a process...

Work with W&D on this.

On Election Day, US voters do not directly vote for a presidential candidate, they choose representatives for the Electoral College (EC).  The candidate who receives 270 EC votes become President.  These designated intermediaries almost always pledge to vote for particular presidential candidates.

The process is very complicated, especially on how the 538 electors are apportioned between the 50 states and Washington DC.

But let's leave it that the hurdle is 270 EC votes.  In the history of the US, aside from 1801 and 1825 (both weird elections) one of the presidential candidates has always received the majority of EC votes.

But, in a tight contest with a strong third candidate, it is possible that no-one wins on Election Day.  For this to happen the third candidate must win sufficient EC votes to deprive the other candidates of the 270 votes.  As, generally, the winner of the popular ballot in a state wins all the EC votes for that state, the third candidate must win the popular vote in at least one state.

A third candidate may win a state if both of the major candidates are unpopular.

This logically, of course, brings W&D to Trump v Clinton.  Each is passionately disliked.  And both have the lowest popularity of major party candidates in US election history.

So, enter Gary Johnson, the candidate for the Libertarian Party.  The Whaaaat Party???, W&D hears readers ask.  Well, it doesn't really matter for now. Johnson was governor of New Mexico and is polling at about 12% nationally in the polls.  

With a strong campaign, he might win New Mexico, and hence he gets five EC votes.  In one perfectly reasonable scenario, the other EC votes are split Clinton 267 and Trump 266.



This is where it gets really complicated.  Essentially the House of Representatives elects the President, but each state delegation receives one vote.  An absolute majority of states must vote for a candidate for that candidate to become President.  The House sits until it elects the President, but if it doesn't by Inauguration Day (20 January 2017), then the Vice President becomes President.  

But if the EC has also failed to elect a Vice-President, then the Senate elects the Vice-President, who then becomes President.

It can get more complicated than this.

W&D's point is that it is entirely possible that (a) the President is not chosen on Election Day; and (b) the President ends up being one of the Vice-Presidential candidates.  It is also possible that the Speaker of the House becomes President, but that is remote.

Unlikely, but after Brexit, anything is possible.