- One sportsbook has set +4900 odds on a 269-269 Electoral College tie in the presidential election
- President Trump is still the underdog going into November 3 at +163, while Joe Biden is the heavy favorite at -191
- Read below for analysis on the current 2020 US Presidential Election odds
Odds have been set at nearly 50-1 for the 2020 national election to end in an Electoral College tie between President Trump and Democratic front-runner Joe Biden.
The outcome would be unprecedented in United States history — but it’s nearly happened before on several occasions.
Odds Electoral College Vote Ties 269-269
Odds taken Oct 30, 2020
While highly unlikely, an Electoral College tie is a possibility — albeit a remote one. Anyone following the 2020 election odds over the last couple of months has seen considerable momentum for a situation that presents 269 votes for incumbent President Trump and for Vice President Biden realistic.
It was realistic enough to be included in the Constitution. The 12th Amendment dictates that the House of Representatives pick a president and the Senate a vice president. But unlike a vote on a piece of legislation in the House, winning the presidency requires the support of a majority of state delegations — whereby each state votes as a unit to decide a winner.
That means that no matter how many Democrats or Republicans there are total, the majority rules. The GOP currently has a 26-23 advantage, with Pennsylvania having nine members of Congress on each side of the aisle. So, unless Democrats flip the majority in a few states, President Trump would win in a likely strict party-line vote.
Of course, if Democrats flip the Senate, you could have a Democratic Vice President. In other words, chaos.
So is this longshot-of-longshot scenarios worth a wager? We handicap how it could happen, and whether it’s worth investing in.
Three states — Arizona, Michigan and Wisconsin — all play critical factors in the 269-269 possibility.
We need look no further back than the 2016 presidential election to explain.
President Trump won 306 electoral votes in 2016, or 36 above a majority of the 270 needed to win. If every state but three voted the same as it did four years ago, an Electoral tie could follow. But Biden leads in two upper Midwest states that Trump nabbed four years ago: Michigan, with 16 electoral votes, and Wisconsin, with 10. If Biden wins in both, it would bring Trump’s electoral edge to 280.
Enter Arizona. The Grand Canyon State, which has 11 electoral votes, is polling in favor of the former Vice President. A Biden win there would bring Trump’s electoral total down to 269.
Keystone State is Key
If President Trump somehow wins Pennsylvania — a state he is currently trailing Biden in according to most polls — and its 20 electoral votes, an Electoral deadlock is on the table,
Guys, just saying: if Biden wins Arizona, Wisconsin and Michigan, but Trump wins Pennsylvania, NE2 and ME2, and all the other states voted the way they did in 2016…it's a 269-269 Electoral College tie.
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) October 28, 2020
According to a piece in Fortune, as recently as early October, Trump lagged by around 30% to 70% in Pennsylvania. Then, he went on a tear, hitting 45% on October 27 as it seemed that Biden’s call for an end to oil and gas production was putting President Trump on track to a lead by Election Day. But the bump didn’t last: By October 29, Trump had retreated to around 40%
Playing the Percentages
The +4900 odds currently posted give a 2-percent implied probability. But President Trump’s odds of winning states he’s currently trailing in are much higher than that. That makes an Electoral draw a much better play from a mathematical standpoint.
You have to go back nearly 200 years to see how things could play out. The 1824 Election saw Andrew Jackson get the most popular votes — but not enough to win in the Electoral College. So, under the aforementioned 12th Amendment, the final vote ultimately fell to the House to determine the outcome. John Quincy Adams won by a single vote after Henry Clay was eliminated through negotiation and his supporters in the House awarded their votes to Adams.
Chance of winning the electoral college:
Chance of winning the most votes:
Estimated electoral college votes:
— Political Polls (@Politics_Polls) October 29, 2020
Jackson and his supporters were livid at the results and ultimately defeated JQA four years later.
Of course, there won’t be a rematch between these two candidates in four years. But as we’ve shown, a tie in the Electoral College isn’t as far-fetched as you might think. And, as noted above, certainly not as far-fetched at 50-1 odds would suggest.
Ultimately, if you’re looking for a novelty bet and you can find these odds, I would suggest making the bet. While Biden is the clear front-runner, President Trump has shown in the past he can make the impossible possible from an electoral perspective.
Let's have fun and keep it civil.