Here’s what happens if there’s a tie in the electoral college on Election Day 2016

Source: AP
Source: AP

Even as we close in on Election Day, battleground states like New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina and Florida are anyone's game. And while pollsters and pundits have worked out almost every possible path to victory for both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump — crunching the numbers to make their best guesses in toss-up states — there's still one scenario left to consider: a tie.

Source: Giphy

That's right. Should Trump pull ahead in both New Hampshire and Nevada, two states where Clinton is currently in the lead, we could very well be looking at a deadlocked election, with each candidate claiming exactly 269 electoral votes. 


This is what a tie could look like in the 2016 presidential election
Source: 
270towin

What happens in the event of a tie? 

A tie would likely come with recounts in individual states, which are mandatory if the winning candidate only bests their opponent by a certain (extremely slim) margin, which varies by state. Of course, such was the case in the 2000 George W. Bush-Al Gore election, which some studies say Gore would have won with between 42 and 171 votes of the 6 million cast in Florida.

If, after recounts, there score remains tied, the provisions of the 12th amendment would kick in. The Constitutional Center explains that the amendment requires electors to confirm their votes and "simply vote for the two persons they viewed as most qualified to become president." The person with the most votes would become the president; the runner up would be vice president.

Should both candidates fail to secure a majority, the election would go to the legislature. The House chooses the president based on the electors' top three choices while the Senate is tasked with choosing a vice president based on electors' top two choices.

How likely is a tie in the 2016 election?

According to FiveThirtyEight, Clinton currently has a 64.6% chance of winning New Hampshire and a 52.6% chance of winning Nevada, which would lead her to victory with 279 electoral votes, if all other states vote as predicted. 

On Monday, CNN's polling average showed Clinton with a 3-point edge over her opponent in New Hampshire. A new poll out of the University of New Hampshire said 4% of undecided voters were still up for grabs. Meanwhile, on Sunday, FiveThirtyEight wondered if Trump "already lost Nevada" with Democrats up in the polls by 6% among early voters. 

A draw between Clinton and Trump isn't beyond the realm of possibility — but currently polling numbers makes it highly unlikely. 

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Marie Solis

Marie is a Slay staff writer with focuses in culture and class. Her writing has appeared in Gothamist and the Awl. You can reach her at marie@mic.com.

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