The Republican presidential candidate won a majority in the Electoral College twice in the last five elections — in 2000 and 2016 — despite losing the popular vote.
Could it get worse for Democrats in 2020?
Kyle Kondik at Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball imagines a scenario where the Republican presidential nominee could lose the popular vote, end in an Electoral College tie, and still win the presidency.
That’s because the Republicans are likely to hold an edge in the process that would be used to resolve an Electoral College tie or any other situation where none of the candidates secure the required Electoral College majority to win the presidency outright (270 or more electoral votes).
Such a situation is certainly not likely, but it’s not impossible either. As we look ahead to the 2020 presidential race, there is a plausible Electoral College map where neither side is able to get the 270 electoral votes needed for a majority.
Here’s Kondik’s hypothetical map:
Of course, there are other tie scenarios. Click on the states in the map above to toggle them from blue to red to find other ways the Electoral College might end up tied.
The above map takes the 2016 election results and makes just three adjustments: Michigan and Pennsylvania, which Donald Trump won by less than a percentage point apiece, would flip to the Democratic nominee. Additionally, Democrats would pick up the electoral vote in Nebraska’s 2nd congressional district, which voted for Trump by about two points in 2016.
Why an Electoral College Tie Would Favor Republicans
The House decides the presidency in the event of an Election College tie, so you might think that Democrats would have the advantage, given their new majority. But it’s actually the Republicans that hold the advantage.
In the event of a tie, the election is decided in the U.S. House of Representatives in a “contingent election,” with each state delegation having one vote. That gives the edge to Republicans.
Each state U.S. House delegation gets to cast a single vote for president. That means that California’s House delegation, with 53 members (and a whopping 46-7 Democratic advantage), has the same power in the process as Wyoming, with its single Republican member.