(WHTM) It’s early afternoon on January 3, 2023, and the first round of balloting failed to elect a Speaker for the U.S. House of Representatives. The House must now move on to a second ballot.
This is an unusual occurrence, to be sure, but it’s not unheard of. According to the House’s own history site, history.house.gov, this has happened fourteen times out of 127 elections.
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The very first speaker nominee to go into overtime was a Pennsylvanian. Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg required three ballots to gain the gavel for the 3rd Congress, which ran from 1793 to 1795.
Of the fourteen (now fifteen) multi-ballot elections, thirteen took place before the outbreak of the Civil War. Three required a second ballot, and another three required a third ballot. Other pre-Civil war elections needed (in order) 22, 12, 10, 11 63, and 44 ballots.
Sandwiched between that 63 and 44 is the election that required the most ballots in house history-an election which made clear just how splintered American politics had become. As the House website bluntly says, “Sectional conflict over slavery and a rising anti-immigrant mood in the nation contributed to a poisoned and deteriorating political climate.”
The 34th Congress (1855-1857) started off in December of 1855 with more than 21 members vying for the post. The House finally elected Nathaniel Prentice Banks of Massachusetts after two months- and 133 ballots.
The 35th Congress, with 44 ballots, was the last pre-Civil War election requiring multiple votes.
Not until the 68th Congress convened in 1923 did another speaker election require more than one vote. Frederick Huntington Gillett became the Speaker after nine ballots.
Now we wait to see how many ballots it will take to elect a speaker for the 118th Congress.
To read the house.gov article on Speakers with multiple ballots, click here.
To read the house.gov article on the longest election, click here.