What Happens If Nobody Wins the Presidency: QuickTake Q&A

Every four years, Americans are reminded how little they really know about their Electoral College system. Is it really possible for a candidate to win the most votes but still lose the presidency? (Ask Al Gore.) Can close elections end up in court? (Again, talk to Al.) And is it really possible that nobody emerges as the winner? That last question comes with an added twist this year.

1. How could it be that nobody wins?

To win, a candidate needs at least 270 electoral votes, a majority of the 538 that are divided among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. A 269-269 tie is mathematically possible, though it’s never happened. This year there’s another long-shot possibility. An independent protest candidate, Evan McMullin, is in striking rangeto win his home state of Utah and its six electoral votes, which otherwise would be expected to go the Republican, Donald Trump. That raises, at least slightly, the possibility that neither Trump nor Democrat Hillary Clinton amasses the needed 270 electoral votes.

2. What happens then?

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