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5 Bizarre Presidential Election Scenarios

The Hill

This could be the most unusual presidential election ever, and in some ways it already is. But there is a distinct possibility that this election could lead the country down paths never before taken—with potentially disastrous consequences. Here’s five possibilities. 

There could be an Electoral College tie. There’s a general consensus among political analysts that the 2024 presidential winner will be decided by seven swing states, with a total of 93 electoral votes: Georgia (16 votes), North Carolina (16), Pennsylvania (19), Michigan (15), Wisconsin (10), Nevada (6), and Arizona (11). 

A presidential candidate needs 270 of the 538 electoral votes to win. Thus, if two candidates were each to receive 269 votes, there would be a tie.  

Can that happen? Yes, but since passage of the 12th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution in 1804, which refined the procedure for electing the president and vice president, only the 1824 election had no Electoral College winner.  

Given current state voting patterns, analysts assume President Joe Biden enters the election with a likelihood of 226 electoral votes, while Donald Trump has 219—with the swing states’ 93 votes deciding the winner. If Biden were to win say, North Carolina, Georgia and Arizona while Trump took Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Nevada, both would have 269 electoral votes. Or if Biden were to win Wisconsin, Nevada, Georgia and Arizona and Trump won Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Michigan, there would also be a 269-vote tie.  

A third-party candidate could alter the outcome. The most talked-about third-party presidential candidate is independent Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. In addition, 2016 Green Party candidate Jill Stein is again seeking the Green Party nomination, and there’s independent Cornel West and likely a Libertarian Party candidate

Third-party candidates go through a process to get on each state’s ballot. Currently, Kennedy is only on the Hawaii, Michigan, Utah ballots, but his campaign says he’s close in six other states. Three of them—Michigan, North Carolina and Nevada—are swing states. Kennedy and Stein could pull more votes than the margin of victory for Biden or Trump in one or more of those states. 

It’s happened before. The 2000 presidential election came down to Florida. George W. Bush beat Vice President Al Gore by 537 votes. However, Green Party candidate Ralph Nader received 97,488 votes in the Sunshine State. Had Nader not been in the race, most of his supporters would have voted for Gore or stayed home, likely giving Gore the win. 

Real Clear Politics’ latest polling shows Kennedy with between 7 and 9 percent of the vote in the four swing states of Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. But polls differ whether Kennedy hurts Biden or Trump more. The point is Kennedy, and perhaps Stein, could be a real spoiler for the otherwise winner in one or more states. 

“Faithless electors” could change the outcome. After the Nov. 5 election, the electors cast their votes on Dec. 17. In 48 states, electors vote for the candidate who won their respective state. The other two states can split the vote

However, there have been “faithless electors” who voted for someone other than their state’s winner—35 in U.S. history, according to, with 10 of them (two Republican and eight Democrats) in the 2016 election. They didn’t change the election results, but under the right conditions they could have.

Thirty-three states require their electors to vote for the state’s winner, while 17 allow them to change their vote but may impose a penalty. Of the swing states, Georgia and Pennsylvania have no laws prohibiting faithless electors, while Michigan counts the faithless-elector’s changed vote.  

So, it’s possible that in a 269-vote tie, one or more faithless electors could cast a vote different from their state and it would be counted, thus deciding who wins the election. Some may remember actor Martin Sheen appearing in a 2016 ad encouraging Trump electors to do just that. 

The House of Representatives might decide the presidential winner. If no presidential candidate receives 270 electoral votes or more, the election moves to the House of Representatives, where each state has one vote. Currently, House Republicans control more states than Democrats, so Trump would likely win.  

However, it won’t be the current House but the one sworn in in January 2025 that will take that vote. The House may flip to Democratic control next year, even though there will still likely be more Republican-led states. 

The Senate might decide the vice-presidential winner. And one more point. Under the 12th Amendment, the Senate votes on the vice president—with each of the 100 senators having a vote. Currently, the Senate is controlled by Democrats, but that may change next year, since far more Democratic than Republican senators are up for election. However, if the 2025 Senate were evenly split, 50-50, the sitting vice president, Kamala Harris, as president of the Senate until inauguration, would cast the deciding vote. Would she cast the winning vote for herself, resulting in a Republican president and a Democratic vice president? 

To be sure, all of the scenarios are very unlikely, but all of them are at least possible. And given how bizarre this election has been so far, you can’t rule anything out.