It was 1800 when the last electoral-vote tie occurred. Electors simply could not decide between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr for the presidency.
The same may just occur in this election.
Chances of an electoral tie for the presidential election have always been relatively slim, but an electoral vote tie between Obama and Romney is a very real possibility this election. Recent national polls have shown the candidates neck and neck as the race nears its November 6 close, but American voters may not choose the next president depending on which direction battleground swing states sway.
One such scenario that increases the likelihood of an electoral tie: Obama holds every state he won in 2008 in addition to Virginia and Colorado. However, Romney manages to retain every state John McCain won in 2008, along with gaining Indiana and North Carolina, and swing states like Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire, Iowa, and Nevada. The result: a 269-269 tie.
Or say Obama maintains a win in his 2008 states and claims Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Maine, and Ohio as his. If Romney gains hold of Colorado, Virginia, and North Carolina, neither candidate reaches the necessary 270 electoral votes and there will be a tie.
Even with a win in popular vote, a tie in electoral votes means the ultimate decision will be determined by the House of Representatives. It’s a 208 year old process, outlined many years ago in the 12th Amendment. In the case of a tie, the House will tally up all electoral votes in a special session of Congress known as a contingent election. Delegations from each state cast one vote each; thus, even state with just one House member like Alaska, will wield as much power as California in selecting the president.
Currently, Republicans control twice as many state delegations than Democrats do in the House, roughly 33 to 16. The likelihood of Republicans also maintaining an advantage in the next Congress is fairly high as well, making it very likely Romney will prevail.
But here is where things get tricky. In the case of an electoral-vote tie, vice presidents are to be selected by the Senate. Each senator would cast one vote and a simple majority vote would determine the vice presidency. As Democrats may still control the U.S Senate next year, that could equal a Romney-Biden administration, a very interesting outcome indeed.