If no candidate secures 270 votes, who becomes the next U.S. president?
Although it’s improbable, a 269-269 Electoral College split – in which no candidate receives the necessary 270 votes to be elected president – is a distinct possibility.
In the case of the 2020 election, this could be possible if Michigan, Pennsylvania and Nebraska’s 2nd District vote for Joe Biden rather than for Donald Trump as they did in 2016. Those shifts, if all other state outcomes mirror 2016 results, would produce a 269-269 tie.
In the event of a tie or an inability of a single candidate to win a majority of Electoral College votes (consider the impact of third-party candidates), contingent election procedures under the Twelfth Amendment outline how the president and vice president are selected by Congress.
In short, the House votes to select the president while the Senate votes to select the vice president.
The likelihood of an Electoral College tie is remote, but not impossible. And if it were to occur, it could produce unique outcomes – such as a split party president/vice president or an acting President Pence, Pelosi, Chuck Grassley or Patrick Leahy, per presidential order of succession rules.