Let's say there is a Constitutional amendment passed that makes the District of Columbia a state. Would this prevent the Electoral College vote from resulting in a tie?


3 Answers 3


No. Even if the change resulted in there being an odd number of total electoral votes, if a third candidate gets an odd number of electors, then a tie remains possible.

  • 7
    Most recent example of a third party candidate getting electoral votes was George Wallace in 1968. Commented Sep 2, 2020 at 20:17
  • Question says "prevent", not "eliminate". By cutting down on the potential ways to tie, it's hard to argue a tie is not further prevented by such a change.
    – dandavis
    Commented Sep 3, 2020 at 4:00
  • 9
    @SurpriseDog There were faithless electors in 2016. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Sep 3, 2020 at 4:18
  • 5
    Re if a third candidate gets an odd number of electors, then a tie remains possible. A third candidate (or faithless electors who vote for Mickey Mouse) can make it possible for no candidate to receive a majority of the electoral votes. Whether they tie is irrelevant. Commented Sep 3, 2020 at 7:19
  • 1
    @dandavis your comment implies that your working definition of "prevent" is different from mine. By my understanding, "prevent" means "make impossible." JoeC: even without faithless electors and third party candidates, it's possible to have a tie with an odd number of electors. If an odd number of electors doesn't vote at all, there will be an even number of votes cast.
    – phoog
    Commented Sep 3, 2020 at 23:17

Would this stop the Electoral College from tying by making the number of electoral votes odd?

As things currently stand, yes.

DC would lose its current special 3 Electoral College votes. If it became a state, the House would remain at 435 seats, which is set in law regardless of the population or number of states. The Senate, however, would expand to 102 seats as this 51st state is added.

Hence the Electoral College would now have 537 votes.

Two comments:

  • Congress could change the number of seats in the House if it so chose.
  • There hasn't been a tie in over 200 years; and in the event of a tie, there is already a procedure for dealing with it.
  • 1
    Although I believe the House would intermediately rise to 436 until the next census and redistricting occurs. So assuming DC were to gain statehood in 2021, the next two presidential elections would still feature 538 electors – unless I misunderstood or forgot something.
    – Jan
    Commented Sep 2, 2020 at 15:20
  • 5
    I think it should be pointed out that a tied electoral college isn't something that really matters as the only thing that counts is that the winner gets a majority of the vote or 50% + 1.
    – Joe W
    Commented Sep 2, 2020 at 22:16
  • @JoeW no, a tied electoral college vote would be broken by Congress (House picks the President, Senate picks the VP). The popular vote is almost irrelevant to the selection of the President. In fact, if all states had voter turnouts proportional to population, it is technically possible to win the presidency with only ~25% of the popular vote (if voter turnouts are not proportional, then you can have even more ridiculous outcomes).
    – asgallant
    Commented Sep 3, 2020 at 18:12
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    @asgallant Something to note there are 538 electoral college votes. If they end up being cast in a close 3 way race for example 193 for candidate a, 175 for candidate b and 170 for candidate c the election will still go to congress as they don't meet the 50% + 1 for the electoral college. A candidate must get 270 votes from the electoral college in order to get a victory and not go to congress. ballotpedia.org/Electoral_College
    – Joe W
    Commented Sep 3, 2020 at 18:50
  • It's worth noting that if the election does go to the House (whether because of a tie or because of a third candidate), all hell will likely break out. The vote in the house is by state, California (population nearly 40 million) and Wyoming (population less than 600 thousand) would each get exactly one vote. People upset about the inequities of the electoral college would go completely berserk if this were to happen.
    – Flydog57
    Commented Sep 3, 2020 at 23:58

Yes, this would still result in an odd number of electoral votes, here's why.

The 23rd Amendment, which is what grants electoral votes to DC reads as follows:

Section 1. The District constituting the seat of Government of the United States shall appoint in such manner as the Congress may direct:

A number of electors of President and Vice President equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives in Congress to which the District would be entitled if it were a State, but in no event more than the least populous State; they shall be in addition to those appointed by the States, but they shall be considered, for the purposes of the election of President and Vice President, to be electors appointed by a State; and they shall meet in the District and perform such duties as provided by the twelfth article of amendment.

Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

The main point to consider is that "The District constituting the seat of Government of the United States" gets it's own electoral votes.

Assuming that Washington DC became a state (as was passed in US House bill H.R.51 on June 26th, 2020) - it would still leave a small portion of DC for the Federal Government.

This is an image of the proposed Federal Enclave from the current bill.

Proposed Federal Enclave

This includes some iconic landmarks such as The White House, Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, US Capitol, Supreme Court, Library of Congress and some other Government buildings/monuments.

Every state gets a minimum of 3 electoral votes, we can assume that Washington DC would get those same electoral votes - which would keep the total at 540.

The 23rd amendment still delegates (at time of writing) 3 electoral votes to this federal district, bringing the new total to 543.

Now an interesting thing to consider is that there are only a handful of people (a single family) who live in this entire district, which would mean that it's the most disproportionate electoral vote per person in the entire country.

I'm sure there would be many legal disputes on this, but essentially - the incumbent president and their family would receive a lot more power in the presidential elections.

Obviously, a tie is still possible as Joe mentioned...

  • 1
    Good point! Sections 223 and 224 of the bill call for the expedited repeal of the 23rd Amendment, but until that happens, it seems like you're right that the Capital would retain 3 electoral votes
    – divibisan
    Commented Sep 3, 2020 at 23:15
  • Have any presidents voted as DC residents? Trump has voted as a New Yorker and now as a Floridian.
    – Connor
    Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 7:15
  • @Connor I'm not sure if it's happened in the past, but for President Trump - his vote obviously has much more value in a state like Florida rather than Washington D.C.
    – Welz
    Commented Sep 24, 2020 at 0:33

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