Imagine walking into the voting booth on November 5 next year and scanning down the list of presidential candidates. There’s President Joe Biden, Democrat; Donald Trump, Republican. The Libertarian and Green parties likely will have their own candidates in your state. And you could spot a few other minor party candidates whose names you’ll have seen for the first time that day. So far, pretty normal.
Now imagine seeing additional names you recognize from their TV ads, campaign rallies, or perhaps from the presidential debates: Independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr.? A No Labels candidate such as Larry Hogan or Joe Manchin, or someone else with centrist credentials?
It’s not just plausible but probable one or both of those lines will be on the ballot. And if you’re one of the 52 percent of registered voters who told Quinnipiac last month that they would like additional candidates to enter the race, you can imagine joining millions of Americans in voting for someone not named Biden or Trump. If today’s polling holds true for 11 months, they’d be two of the least popular candidates in recent memory—Biden with growing concerns about his advanced age and poor job approval, Trump with his numerous indictments and refusal to concede the 2020 election.
Now let’s imagine a harder-to-fathom scenario: With other candidates in the field, neither Trump nor Biden wins the 270 electoral votes for a majority. As outlined in the Constitution, election of the head of the executive branch would suddenly be in the hands of Congress, specifically the Congress elected next November. In the House, each state’s delegation would receive one vote to allocate among the top two or three performing candidates in the Electoral College. The Senate would choose, by majority vote, the vice president among the top two performing vice presidential candidates.