I was prompted by a Gary Johnson post in Facebook: Hillary and Trump could both come up short of 270 Electoral votes and throw the election to the House of Representatives. (Where Johnson could presumably be chosen)
I went looking to see what the law said on this topic. I should have just gone to the document itself, but willfully clicked on a link to an article from The Atlantic that seemed promising. Little did I expect that it would be from October 1980! (Yay for The Atlantic for getting those archive issues on-line!)
If Anderson wins only the thirty-nine electoral votes of Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Connecticut -- three states in which Ronald Reagan's polls have shown Anderson leading -- Jimmy Carter could end up with 230 votes from the urban Northeast and part of the South, forty short of the 270 needed for a majority, and Reagan could take the rest -- including the West and Midwest -- for a total of 268 electoral votes, two votes short of the presidency.
In case you think Laurence H. Tribe and Thomas M. Rollins were just spinning a fancy...It sounds to me like they really thought this could happen.
That the odds of a House election seem high in 1980 is not just a function of Anderson's strong showing in the polls; those odds will remain high and grow higher as the political gaps left by our major parties continue to widen.
What was interesting, even though I have a faint recollection of seeing this before, is that the House does not choose the President by simple majority. It chooses by a majority of state delegations. So the California delegation gets one vote, the New Hampshire delegation one, etc. I am pleased to note that Republicans have a majority in 33 states, Democrats in 14 and it is evenly split in the remaining 3.
The Person having the greatest Number of Votes shall be the
President, if such Number be a Majority of the whole
Number of Electors appointed; and if there be more than
one who have such Majority, and have an equal Number of
Votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately
chuse by Ballot one of them for President; and if no Person
have a Majority, then from the five highest on the List
the said House shall in like Manner chuse the President.
But in chusing the President, the Votes shall be taken by
States, the Representation from each State having one Vote;
A quorum for this Purpose shall consist of a Member or
Members from two thirds of the States, and a Majority of
all the States shall be necessary to a Choice.
A final note: The election of 1980 had the final results of: Reagan 489 electoral votes, Carter 49 and Anderson zero.