As a follow up to my last blog post, I promised to cover a little more information on the Electoral College. Just to sum up what we learned in our last post, the Electoral College is a process, not a place. The founding fathers established it in the Constitution as a compromise between election of the President by a vote in Congress and election of the President by a popular vote of qualified citizens.
Each candidate running for President in your state has his or her own group of electors. The electors are generally chosen by the candidate’s political party, but state laws vary on how the electors are selected and what their responsibilities are.
On January 6th, each state’s electoral votes are counted in a joint session of Congress. Once the votes have all been counted, the Vice President who is the President of the Senate announces the results and then declares who has been elected to the office of the Presidency and Vice Presidency. You have to feel sorry a little bit when the incumbent team loses and then the Vice President has to announce that his competition has beat him. Although, I will admit that when Joe Biden has to name Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan as the new President and Vice President, I will be taking a little perverse pleasure.
The process for selecting Electors varies throughout the United States. Generally, the political parties nominate Electors at their State party conventions or by a vote of the party’s central committee in each State. Each candidate will have their own unique slate of potential Electors as a result of this part of the selection process.
Electors are usually chosen because they’ve shown dedication to their political party. They can be elected officials, or people who have a relationship with the candidate.
Until recently, many Americans probably didn’t know there was an electoral college or didn’t know what their purpose was. Truthfully, most Americans probably assumed that he who got the most votes wins. And in point of fact, in recent history, that much turned out to be true. In the 200+ years of our country, there has only been a handful of times when the Electoral College really had much of an impact on a Presidential election. Ordinarily, there is a winner of the popular vote who also wins the Electoral College. But not every time…..
In 1800, when neither Thomas Jefferson nor Aaron Burr received a majority of votes cast by the Electoral College, the U.S. House of Representatives elected Jefferson by one vote, ending the impasse. Both Jefferson and Burr were running on the Democratic-Republican
In 1824, John Quincy Adams was similarly elected President in the House of Representatives, although Andrew Jackson had received the majority of the popular vote. This election, incidentally, was the first time in American history that the popular vote was actually recorded.
As in the historic election of 1800, because neither Adams nor Jackson received a majority of the Electoral College vote, the election was decided again by the popularly elected House of Representatives, which chose Adams. But history and fortune smiled on Andrew Jackson four years later, in 1828, when Old Hickory beat Adams and was elected President, this time winning both the Electoral College and the popular votes.
Thereafter, there would be only three other occasions in which Presidents and Vice Presidents were elected by a majority of the Electoral College votes, despite losing the popular vote by slim margins. These were the presidential elections of 1876, 1888 and 2000, in which Republican candidates Rutherford B. Hayes, Benjamin Harrison and George W. Bush were elected President, respectively.
As evidenced in the 2000 election, very close elections may require tedious recounts, which even in this age of computerized voting remain a painstaking process. Popular, direct elections require recounting individual, direct votes (including absentee and provisional ballots) rather than the defined slate of state electoral votes, creating more opportunities for clerical errors or outright ballot fraud.
So, now that I’ve told you absolutely everything there is to know about the Electoral College, have any of your opinions be changed in one direction or the other? I for one feel the Electoral College needs to be left intact, exactly the way it was intended by the founding fathers, whether the outcome of the election is in the favor of my candidate or not. This truly is the soundest way I have seen to ensure that all states voices are heard.