The 2016 presidential election has been an incredibly historic affair. Hillary Clinton is the first female major party presidential nominee, marking an important milestone in equality. Donald Trump's candidacy proves that an outsider can run a successful presidential campaign and that the nation is hungry for a drastic change, to say nothing of his many controversies and the ways he's gone about conducting himself in public and in private. It seemed as if not a single scandal, lawsuit, misstep, or gaffe could thwart Trump's shocking ascent. Is there any way Donald Trump isn't the next president?
It all depends on whether Trump receives the popular vote or the electoral vote. He could most certainly net both, but it's achieving at least 270 of the 538 total electoral votes. 48 states, along with Washington D.C., adhere to a winner-take-all electoral voter system. Nebraska and Maine allocate sections of its electoral votes based off districts. The amount of electoral votes are determined by state population. Thus, a candidate could technically earn more overall votes but still fall short in the electoral college if a majority of those victories occurred in smaller states.
A Trump win through electoral votes alone would be the fifth time this has happened in the country, the most recent occurring in 2000 when George W. Bush defeated Al Gore 271 to 266.
There's also a possibility that Trump fails to meet that 270 electoral vote threshold and that Clinton does as well. If there is no clear electoral college winner, it's then up to the House of Representatives. Each representative will get one vote to cast for the candidate of their choice. It's highly likely that vote could culminate in a Trump victory, given just how highly GOP House members are polling and the fact that many media outlets have called the House in Republicans' favor. As of this writing, Republicans need just 24 seats to ascend to 218 representatives and ultimately maintain control of the House. Democrats need a full 84 more seats. The House of Representatives has a total of 435 seats, thus there will be no need for a tie-breaking vote if the election comes down to state reps.
No matter what the outcome ultimately comes to, the general election will be decided rather quickly. Even at its most opaque when the 2000 election came down to the state of Florida, a final result was announced within the calendar year thanks to the outcome of the Bush v. Gore Supreme Court case. On Dec. 12, 2000, SCOTUS voted 5-4 in favor of ultimately electing Bush, leaving just enough time for the outgoing president to prepare for the swearing in of a brand new commander in chief.
Once it's been declared official that Trump is president, it's highly doubtful anything will come between that result and The Donald taking the White House.