What Happens if the Presidential Election Ends Up in a Tie?

In a few hours, the 2020 presidential election will be over and voters will be waiting to hear the final result of a tumultuous and long election cycle. In the week leading up to Election Day, President Donald Trump and Joe Biden were traveling the country speaking to voters in a last-ditch effort to win the presidency.

Early-voting numbers reached record-breaking levels, with more than 99 million Americans casting their votes before November 3. Even still, it could take days for Americans to know who won the race for president after accounting for both in-person and mail-in votes. Though, in swing states such as Florida, Arizona and North Carolina, votes are expected to be counted that night or shortly after, Vox reports. Of course, it is not simply the amount of people who have voted that makes the difference in the end, it is the Electoral College that matters most.

Trump in Tampa
President Donald Trump gives a campaign speech just four days before Election Day outside of Raymond James Stadium on October 29, in Tampa, Florida. With less than a week until Election Day, Trump and his opponent, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, are campaigning across the country. Octavio Jones/Getty

While it might seem hard to believe that there could ever be a tie in a presidential election, it did happen in the year 1800 between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. This was only the fourth election in American history, and when officials went to tally up the vote, both candidates had received 73 electoral votes. Now, as the country has grown, there are a total of 538 electors—meaning each candidate needs 270 or more to win an election.

Biden in Tampa
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks during a drive-in campaign rally at the Florida State Fairgrounds on October 29, in Tampa, Florida. Biden is campaigning in Florida on Thursday, with drive-in rallies in Tampa and Broward County. If after all votes are counted after November 3 and there is a tie, the decision would be left up to the House of Representatives Drew Angerer/Getty

So, what happens if a tie occurs? In 1800, the government looked to the Constitution, which has a plan for the event of a tie. "[I]f there be more than one who have such Majority, and have an equal Number of Votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately choose by Ballot one of them for President."

In 1800, it took quite a while for the House of Representatives to come to an agreement. In fact, the House deadlocked 36 times before eventually electing Thomas Jefferson as the winner, according to History.com.

CHS voting
People line up to cast their in-person absentee ballots at the Charleston County Public Library on October 30, 2020 in Charleston, South Carolina. Michael Ciaglo/Getty

Fast-forward to today, if after all votes are counted after November 3 and there is a tie, the decision would still be left up to the House of Representatives. To decide, each state's delegation would cast a single vote to determine which candidate has the majority of support.

As of October 30, FiveThirtyEight says Joe Biden is favored to win the election based on both national and state polls. But, with as many twists and turns as this year has offered, it is hard to say what exactly will happen come November 3 and the days that follow.