Resolute Square

What Happens If There Is A Presidential Election And No One Wins?

Martin Frost writes, "What happens if a candidate with a famous name like Kennedy actually carries a few small states with a total of 18 electoral votes? Bingo – no one wins." That's when things really go off the rails.
Published:April 23, 2024

By Martin Frost

What happens if we have a presidential election and no one wins?

Now that Robert Kennedy Jr. is in the race running as an independent, it is possible that you could have a result on election day that no one gets the 270 electoral votes to win. Let’s say that Biden and Trump each get 260 electoral votes, and Kennedy wins several states with 18 electoral votes. The total number of electoral votes is 538, and Kennedy’s 18 electoral votes hold both Biden and Trump under the magic number of 270.

How is this possible? It’s because of a fatal flaw in the electoral college system – electoral votes in all but two states are determined winner-take-all. Whoever receives the most votes in each of 48 of our states wins 100 percent of the electoral votes in each of these states. There is no proportional representation. If you lose any of these states with 47 percent of the popular vote and your major opponent gets 49 percent of the popular vote, he gets all of the electoral votes in each such state. Only Maine and Nebraska have different systems.

A third-party candidate like Kennedy could tip the electoral vote in a number of states by receiving as little as four percent of the popular vote. Independent candidate Ross Perot got 19 percent of the popular vote in 1992 but won zero electoral votes because he didn’t carry a single state.

But what happens if a candidate with a famous name like Kennedy actually carries a few small states with a total of 18 electoral votes? Bingo – no one wins.
Under our constitution, the election is then decided by the House of Representatives, with each state having only one vote. Our most populous state, California, gets one vote, and a small state like Wyoming gets only one vote. The election would be decided by the new House, which takes office on January 3rd.

Republicans currently control a majority of state delegations in the House of Representatives Trump could be elected by the House even if the Democrats take back the House if the Republicans still control a majority of the state delegations. This could be possible because many of the small state delegations are likely to remain Republican.

Enter Bobby Kennedy Jr. Because he has a famous name and the general population knows very little about some of his bizarre positions on issues, he could throw the election to Trump either by tipping the popular vote to Trump in some states or by actually carrying some small states. That’s why a large number of Kennedy family members recently held a press conference disavowing their famous relative and endorsing President Biden.

Their message was simple – a vote for Bobby Kennedy Jr. is a vote for Trump.

Former Congressman Martin Frost (D-Texas, 1979-2005) was Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 1996 and 1998 and Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus from 1999 to 2002.


  • Turns Out, Trump's The Sucker- Joe Biden's Strategic Masterclass
    That Trippi Show

    That Trippi Show

    Two candidates, two speeches -- why President Biden's Morehouse speech and Trump's NRA debacle sum up the contrast between the two. It's not just about what they're saying. Joe thinks there's a clear tactical difference that's going to hurt Trump in the long term. And that's not even getting into Trump putting out more Hitlerian video content or going after birth control. Plus - Joe explains how President Biden suckered Trump into agreeing to a debate - and why it plays right into Joe Biden's hands.
    May 24, 2024
  • Inequality in the United States: A Choice, Not Destiny
    It's not your imagination. The deck is stacked in favor of the super-wealthy. Brian Daitzman explains why inequality continues to expand in the US and how tax policies under Trump advantaging the rich made them far richer at the expense of middle and lower income Americans.
    May 23, 2024
  • Beware The Lawyers (Follow-Up)
    Teri Kanefield writes that in the end, "All we’ve got are individual people formed by the norms and institutions they are embedded in making decisions, hopefully coming to the right conclusions and acting in good faith. Or at the very least, bowing to some sense of public pressure or shame not to do the wrong thing."
    May 22, 2024
  • From FBI Director to Novelist
    The Enemies List

    Rick Wilson's The Enemies List

    James Comey writes fiction! On the show today, the former FBI Director joins to discuss his latest novel, "Westport." They explore the inspiration behind Comey's second foray into fiction, drawing from his time at a hedge fund and his experiences in law enforcement. The conversation dives into the current political landscape, focusing on the high-profile trials of Donald Trump and their implications for the rule of law. Comey shares his insights on the importance of the DOJ and FBI's independence, the potential consequences of politicizing these institutions, and his outlook on upcoming legal battles.
    May 22, 2024
  • David Pepper Joins The Strategy Session
    Strategy Session

    Strategy Session

    An intense, important, eye-opening episode with David Pepper in the house. What are the tactics of those destroying democracy from the state level on up? Join David, Stuart, and Joe for the strategy that gets us to the future we want and deserve.
    May 21, 2024