Of course it is unlikely, but it is possible that Donald
Trump or Bernie Sanders could wind up becoming president even if he as a
candidate on the November, 2016 ballot does not receive more popular votes than
any other candidate and does not receive more electoral college votes than any
How one gets elected president is provided for in the Constitution
Article II as amended.
In the simplest situation one major party candidate gets a
majority of electoral college votes and the other major party candidate gets a
smaller number of electoral votes and none of the other candidates get any
Getting a majority of electoral votes gets you elected
president even if sometimes the candidate with the most electoral votes is not
the one with the most popular votes as happened with Bush v. Gore in 2000.
When a third party or independent candidate who appears to
have substantial support joins the two major party candidates on the November
ballot, the election outcome may involve other scenarios. First of all, it is unlikely that either
major party candidate will receive a majority of the popular vote.
In 1992, no candidate had a majority of popular support,
but a major party candidate received a majority of the electoral votes. Bill Clinton received 43.01 per cent of the
popular vote and 370 electoral college votes and George H. W. Bush received
37.45 per cent of the popular vote and 168 electoral college votes. In that election the third-party candidate,
Ross Perot received 18.91 per cent of the popular vote, but no electoral
In 1968, although there was a third party candidate who
received electoral college votes, the winning candidate, Richard Nixon, had a
substantial majority of electoral votes.
The results were:
Electoral College; 43.4 per cent popular vote.
Electoral College; 42.7 per cent popular vote.
Electoral College; 8.4 per cent popular vote.
Now consider the situation if, with a popular third party
or independent candidate, no candidate gets a majority of the electoral college
According to Article II of the Constitution and Amendment
12, if no candidate receives a majority of the electoral college votes for
president, the election is decided by House of Representatives among the three
candidates receiving the greatest number of electoral college votes; the House
votes by state, one vote per state, with a majority of all the states needed to
So the result can be that the president can be elected
without a majority of popular vote and without a majority of electoral college