An Electoral College Tie is Possible in 2024

Close elections have become the norm in recent years, and there’s a risk that neither major party candidate gets the requisite 270 Electoral College votes this November. That would mean the newly elected House chooses the president, a scenario that hasn’t happened since 1824.

The last two presidential elections were decided by three states and fewer than 80,000 voters in each case. We expect the 2024 election to be close as well, with a chance that neither Joe Biden nor Donald Trump receives 270 Electoral College votes, the threshold to win the presidency. The risk is not due to the emergence of several third-party and independent candidates. Those candidates could peel voters away from Biden or Trump and impact who wins a state in a close race, but they aren’t likely to win a state outright and secure Electoral College votes. Instead, we believe the risk is that we end up with a 269-269 Electoral College tie.

There are seven swing states this cycle: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. If Biden wins Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, which he won in 2020, he would have exactly 270 Electoral College votes if he also wins all of the other electoral votes that he won in 2020. This count includes Nebraska’s 2nd congressional district (Omaha) because Nebraska (along with Maine) allocates Electoral College votes by district as well as by statewide vote. In this scenario, Trump would have 268 votes. However, if Trump were to flip Nebraska’s 2nd district, that would take one vote from Biden’s column, resulting in a 269-269 split. Although Biden won that district in 2020, Trump won it in 2016.

Table explaining how an Electoral College tie is possible in 2024.

If no candidate receives 270 Electoral College votes, a contingent election will occur. In a contingent election, the newly elected House of Representatives decides who will be the president among the top three Electoral College vote-getters for the presidency and the newly elected Senate decides who will be the vice president between the top two Electoral College vote-getters for that office. In the Senate, each member has a vote. In the House, each state’s delegation receives one vote. This means that even if Republicans lose all of the 17 districts they are defending that voted for Biden in 2020 and Democrats lose all five districts they are defending that voted for Trump in 2020, Republicans will still have control of 26 state delegations, a simple majority. In this scenario, losing a net 12 seats would mean that Republicans lose control of the House and are the minority party but still have the opportunity to choose a Republican president.

The contingent election vote would not take place until January, when the new Congress is seated. That means we could have two months of not knowing the election outcome, which could lead to market weakness. Notably, in 2000, the Federal Reserve did an emergency 50 basis point rate cut because the US economy that year was slowing into the election and the slowdown was compounded by not knowing the presidential election winner for six weeks. While this scenario is unlikely, we will be watching closely as the race evolves.

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