As November draws near, many Americans are concerned that they have no viable option for president. Therefore, the question is, what happens if neither Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump receive 50 percent of the electoral votes?
According to the 12th Amendment of the Constitution, if neither candidate receives 270 electoral votes, then the House of Representatives will elect the president. The House will choose among the three candidates that gained the most number of popular votes.
The vice president is chosen by the Senate. They must choose among the top two candidates.
If the House of Representatives does not elect a commander in chief by Inauguration Day, the vice president-elect will fill-in until the House comes to an agreement.
Currently, there are four presidential candidates on the November ballot, already creating the opportunity for the votes to be split. However, there has been a significant amount of talk, on social media sites, about writing in random people, which will cause a further split.
However, the Electoral College votes by a winner-takes-all basis. This means both Clinton and Trump would have to lose in individual states. In 1960, electors in two states refused to vote for Richard Nixon or John F. Kennedy. They chose to write-in Sen. Harry Boyd, who was not a candidate and from an entirely different state. However, Sen. Boyd did receive the electoral votes from those two states.
In the 1992 election, Ross Perot, the candidate for the Independent Party, won 20 million individual votes. However, he failed to win in any of the states. This prevented him from receiving any electoral votes.
The best way for a third-party candidate to affect the electoral votes is for Jill Stein and Gary Johnson to focus their campaigns toward individual states. This is a doable endeavor, which has been accomplished before.
When Theodore Roosevelt lost the Republican nomination in 1912, he started and ran under the Progressive Party. He lost the election but won 27 percent of the votes against three other candidates.
In 1924, Robert La Follette ran as the Progressive Party nominee. He only won Wisconsin but that granted him 13 electoral votes.
The 1948 election was affected by Strom Thurmond, who was as a segregationist. His purpose in running for election was two-fold. He wanted to prevent the re-election of Henry S. Truman and have the House of Representatives determine the election outcome. He was able to gain electoral votes from four southern states.
In 1968, George Wallace also ran for president with the intent to split the votes and have the House decide the outcome of the election. He had 23 percent of the electoral support until he announced his vice presidential candidate. Regardless, Wallace was able to gain five states in the election.
Ralph Nader was the Green Party nominee in 2000. He caused an upset and was accused of taking votes away from Al Gore. Even though he was not allowed to participate in the presidential debates, he garnered 2.7 percent of the popular vote.
Third-party candidates have the potential to cause a disturbance in a presidential election. It has happened in the past, and it will likely happen again. There has even been a president elected by the House of Representatives.
In 1824, none of the four candidates who ran for president received the then needed 131 electoral votes. The presidential candidates were Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, William H. Crawford, and Henry Clay. The vote went to the House and John Quincy Adams was elected president.
America need not lose heart. It appears, from reviewing the nation’s history, that anything can happen.
By Jeanette Smith
The Fiscal Times: What Happens If Neither Clinton Nor Trump Get Enough Electoral Votes?
National Archives and Records Administration: U.S. Electoral College FAQs
PBS: 1968 Campaign
Gallup: Gallup Brain: Strom Thurmond and the 1948 Election
The New York Times: The Struggles of Third-Party Candidates Through the Years
History: Presidential election decided in the House
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