Effects of a Deadlock in the Electoral College

March 22, 1924
Entire Report

The election of the President is thrown into Congress, by the terms of the Constitution, whenever it happens that no candidate receives a majority of the total number of electoral votes. Twice in the history of the United States a President has been chosen by the House of Representatives. The last occasion was just 100 years ago. That more elections have not been thrown into Congress has been due to the fact that the United States throughout most of its history has had two great political parties somewhat equally balanced. If the voters were broken into a greater number of parties the election would almost invariably devolve upon the House.

Possible Deadlock in Electoral College

The reason for the belief that the next election will be thrown into Congress is a fairly general expectation that there will be one or more new parties in the field next fall and that the contest between the Republican and Democratic candidates will be fairly close. A third party, carrying four or five north western and middle western states, is almost certain to cause a failure to elect through the electoral colleges, unless there is a sweep in other states by the candidate of one of the dominant parties.

The time for the casting of ballots by presidential electors in the states, as fixed by the act of February 3, 1887, is the second Monday in January. The next meetings of presidential electors will be held January 12, 1925. The votes must be forwarded to Washington before the first Wednesday in February. They are counted in the presence of the House and Senate on the second Wednesday in February. The electoral votes resulting from the November election will be counted at the capitol February 11, 1925, just three weeks before the expiration of the President's term.

Provision for Election by the House

The twelfth amendment to the Constitution, adopted in 1804, provides that: “the person having the greatest number of votes for President (when counted at the capitol) shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; (now elected) and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest number, not exceeding 3, on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President.”

As a concession to the smaller states it was provided in the amendment (and in the clause it superseded) that the balloting in the House should be by states, the representation of each state having one vote. A quorum for this purpose consists of a member or members from two thirds of the states. A majority of all the states is necessary to a choice. The provision that

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Electoral College
Dec. 08, 2000  Electoral College
Nov. 19, 1976  Electoral College Reform
Aug. 18, 1944  The Electoral College
Jul. 10, 1940  Abolition of the Electoral College
Mar. 22, 1924  Effects of a Deadlock in the Electoral College
Campaigns and Elections