On November 8th, the ballots will be counted and one of four Presidential candidates is expected to win the necessary 270 electoral votes to become the President of the United States. What if Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Jill Stein, or Gary Johnson does not receive the necessary 270 votes? Under the 12th Amendment, if no candidate receives the majority of electoral votes, the decision will be brought to the House of Representatives. The candidates receiving the highest vote totals, numbering no more than three candidates, will campaign for a majority of votes in the House. When the vote is brought to the House, each State will be given one vote, requiring a candidate to receive 26 votes for a majority. It is important for candidates to understand receiving any vote total below 26 could at best be a plurality and under the 12th Amendment a majority of 26 is required. At the same time, the Vice Presidential election will be brought to the Senate, where two-thirds of the Senators will vote and again a majority will be necessary for a victory. Historically, John Quincy Adams, in 1824, is the only presidential candidate to have been elected by the House. Interestingly, this election also had four presidential candidates and no clear leader. A majority was found only when the Speaker of the House, Henry Clay, brought Party members together in support of Adams.
But what if the Senate and the House cannot agree on which candidate they want and neither a presidential candidate or VP candidate receives a majority within congress? Under the 20th Amendment, if a President is not chosen before the beginning of the fixed term the then VP elect will act as President until Congress can elect a President. The difficult part begins here; if at the time of the President’s fixed term neither a President or VP has gained a majority in Congress, then under Chapter 1 of Title 3 United States Code Section 19, the then Speaker of the House, who is currently Paul Ryan, will act as President until a majority is reached. Part C of this same code also opens the door for Paul Ryan to become the official President; if by January 20th, the scheduled inauguration of the President, no majority has been reached then the Speaker of the House shall continue acting as President until the expiration of the current Presidential term.
While these Amendments, Codes, and Sections may seem far fetched, they were made because someone expected that situations like the one above could happen. The fractured parties, unhappy voters, and general unique situations these Candidates have created throughout recent months only increases the chance that Paul Ryan could actually become the next President of the United States.