I am thinking on some highly extraordinary thing. For example:

  • a new computer virus irrecoverably deletes the votes before counting them
  • a sudden natural disaster makes a decisive part of the population simply incapable to vote
  • some group starts to riot and makes the election fail

Thus, the election happens everywhere, except in state X, which is - not on its own fault - incapable to provide the electors.

  • If one party disputes that missing state X's votes should have been nationally decisive, the Supreme Court decides based on whichever party it's most grateful to.
    – agc
    Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 5:58

1 Answer 1


The President isn't elected by the states, but by the Electoral college. The election in a specific state merely chooses that state's electoral college representatives.

As such, there are two main distinct scenarios:

  • If the Electoral college votes conclusively reaches 270 votes in favor of one of the candidates on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December.

    In this scenario, most likely, the election result will be valid (meaning, will be certified by Congress and pass any SCOTUS challenges) and whatever happens in that one state is irrelevant.

  • Now, what if the failed-election state is a state whose votes are required to reach 270? There are several options there:

    1. The Secretary of State in that state decides to allocate electors in a way that either:

      • Doesn't get anyone to object to the decision (yah right!)

      • Or, is somehow able to withstand Constitutional legal scrutiny at both the state and (certainly, eventually, SCOTUS) level.

      If that happens, the state's electors vote somehow; and hopefully one of the candidates reaches 270 votes. (if not, we are in 12th Amendment situation which has nothing to do with your question).

    2. Absent option #1 succeeding, we are in a constitutional crisis which would have to be decided on by SCOTUS. I'm not a lawyer and don't even play one on Internet, so I have no idea which side SCOTUS would take, but I see two main possible options there:

      • SCOTUS decides that this situation is a simple "not enough votes to reach 270" and Twelfth Amendment applies and the election is decided by the House of Representatives for POTUS and Senate for VPOTUS.

      • SCOTUS decides that the state needs a chance for a new election; and either forces the State to pick some acceptable option as per option #1 above, or simply declares a do-over.

    3. One more option, which I don't think is likely in practice, is that the State chooses to hold a State constitutional convention, which in turn, manages to come to a consensus with sufficient majority to amend the State constitution to pick a viable resolution on what to do.

  • 2
    And through it all, smart people buy passive US equity index funds or high-BETA US stocks, or somehow otherwise bet on stock market going down short term and up long term, since markets hate uncertainty
    – user4012
    Commented Sep 2, 2017 at 18:15

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