The US Electoral College, How It Works, Controversy And Election Reform
Does the US Electoral College Need Reform Or Elimination?
The US Electoral College is not actually an academic college or any type of school facility or higher education institute. It is a group of people involved in electing the President of the United States.
This particular group is defined by a system originally designed under Article II of the US Constitution and Constitutional Amendments 12 and 14.
Briefly, in US Presidential races, each US State has an assigned number of electoral votes (by electors) that is equal to the number of its US House Representatives in Congress, plus two for its US Senators. Washington DC has three electoral votes. However, the DC electors are not the same people as the Representatives and Senators.
Additional foundation information is found below at pages containing the US Constitution and its Amendments.
Electoral Votes Cast in the 1796 Presidential Election
Changes in Electoral Processes
The Numbers of Electors assigned to each of the individual US States are listed below, just after a graphic image that represents the confusion embedded in the long-ago 1796 Presidential Election. Confusion about the Electoral College has been in place for centuries at this point.
The Electoral College of 1796 could not distinguish between the US Presidential and the US Vice Presidential Candidates. In 1796, ballots included only one list of candidates - a single list of all men running for all the offices.
Formerly, the US President was the man that received the highest number of Electoral Votes. The Vice President, then, was the runner up. He was the man that received the second highest number of electoral votes. The two men, therefore, could be of different political parties.
The 12th Amendment to the US Constitution changed the electoral process and the selection of electors. In the 20th century, further amendments made it possible for women and Blacks also to hold these offices. By the time of the 2016 US Presidential Election, our nation had functioned under one African-American POTUS for eight years - Barack Obama, but under no female head of state. That comprises, since George Washington in 1789, 227 years of all male Presidents.
Under the graphics presented of the 1796 Presidential Election below, a list of US States and the number of electoral votes each one held for election years 2012 and 2016 are given.
There is no Federal US Law to require Electors to vote the way the majority of people voted for President in their state.
Consitution of the United States of AmericaClick thumbnail to view full-size
US Constitution and Amendments
The US Constitution and the Individual States
From 2012 - 2016
New Hampshire 4
New Jersey 15
New Mexico 5
New York 31
North Carolina 15
North Dakota 3
Rhode Island 4
South Carolina 8
South Dakota 3
West Virginia 5
Numbers of Electoral Votes
District of Columbia 3
Electors are often chosen for their past performance and service to a particular political party, so they are not unbiased.
The American Presidency
This book contains 555 pages of material produced by constitutional scholars at the University of Virginia, Virginia being an important member of the Original 13 Colonies. It is written in an interesting style and portrays each US President to 2011 as a person who had opportunities to change America, Including Barack Obama in his first two years in office. It is a must-read work for anyone voting for President.
The Two Party System
Electors are Not Party Convention Delegates
As such a system, the US Electoral College is administered by NARA, which is the National Archives and Records Administration. The system was looked on an early national compromise between having a popular democratic vote (one among the nation's citizens) and having Congress select the US President (POTUS). It is confusing to many people, and school children sometimes struggle with the concept. It is similar in certain aspects to statistical weighted averages and standardized measures, but that is even more confusing to a greater number of people.
Simply put, the people of the United States do not vote for the President.
The people vote for the Electors, who are limited in number to each state by legislation. The State with the greatest number of Electors is California with 55 and that with the fewest Electors is actually a few States and DC with only 3.
The Electors, in turn, vote for the President and their vote is not tabulated completely until the December after the November election year. The votes of the Electors are assumed to reflect the wishes of the US population, but it is possible that they do not. There is no Federal US Law to require Electors to vote the way the majority of people voted for President in their state.
However, some States have laws that do require Electors to vote just as the majority of people did in the Presidential election. Twenty-six states have these requirements, but in 24 other States, the electors may vote any way that they want.
The people are permitted to vote for the Electors during a Statewide general election, but they are not allowed to determine electoral candidates themselves. The people must vote on the Electors that the political parties have chosen. The Democrats and Republicans choose these candidates for Electors at their local State Conventions or within each party's central committee. So, there are Republican electors and Democratic Electors.
In the state general election, the names of the Electors may not even be shown on the ballot. Each voter in some states is simply asked to choose their Presidential pick on the ballot. Voters may never know who the Electors of their state are, but, they can find out by requesting to see the official State Governor's Certificate of Ascertainment that must list the names of the Electors.
Following the State's general election, each Governor is required to make up 7 originals of a Certificate of Ascertainment for the Electors - winners and losers. These certificates look different from state to state and have no standard form. Each original contains a list of the Electors and the number of votes they won. It is also required to have a list of losers and the number of votes they won as well.
If you want to find out who the Electors of your state are after your state's next general election, contact:.
- The Archivist of the United States
- National Archives and Records Administration
- c/o Office of the Federal Register (NF)
- 8601 Adelphi Road
- College Park, MD 20740-6001
Opinion for Change: Sabato's Reforms for Electoral College
C.A.T.O. Institute and National Review On Electoral Reform, 2013
- Several States Closer to Overthrowing Electoral College - By Tara Ross - The Corner - National Revie
Tara Ross writes on NRO: George Washington once warned against those who would undermine the Constitution. “It is requisite,” he wrote, “that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon [constitutional] principles however specious the pretexts
- Should We Reform the Electoral College? | Policy Report | Cato Institute
Opinion for Change. The "Real" USA.
An Example Close-Up: The 2008 Presidential Election
The Situation In December 2008:
On December 15, 2008 all Electors must meet in their own States. Federal law does not allow any alternate dates. These meetings are usually held in the individual State capitals and Electors vote for President and Vice President. If any Electors don't show up without notice, those votes are lost. Any vacancies must be filled by the States themselves at least six days BEFORE the meetings, or this time on December 9, 2008.
This means that emergency vacancies occurring on December 15, 2008 can't be filled. The votes won't be counted in Congress until January 9, 2009. It is possible that the majority of the population will choose one Presidential Candidate, and the results of the Electoral Vote - the actual winner -- will be the Other Candidate, but the chance is small.
The Situation Overall Then and Now
Electors are often chosen for their past performance and service to a particular political party, so they are not unbiased. In fact, many of them are State Elected Officials (SEOs), Local elected Officials (LEOs), leaders of Community Based Organizations (CBOs), party big-wigs, or folks with friendship/family bonds or political affiliations with Presidential candidates. The election process is therefore not unbiased at all.
I would like to see America develop a strong third party, because I see too much money tied up in political campaigning and candidacies. This is the reason that some minds believe that America is not run "...of the people, by the people, for the people," as Abraham Lincoln stated it should be, but by and for corporations, lobbyists, special interest groups. Indeed, many believe that the presidency is bought. Many would like to see effective election reform to endure that elections are not biased.
Opinion: Keep the Electoral College, By Comentator Lou Guzzo.
Past Controversies About Electoral Procedures and Votes
- How Kennedy Won Hawaii in 1960
In the 1960 presidential election, Hawaii's 3 electoral votes were cast for Senator John F. Kennedy even though the Republican electors supporting Vice-President Richard M. Nixon had been certified the winners.
- Ohio Presidential Tally Is Challenged
The challengers who went to the Supreme Court question whether Bush won the key swing state by 119,000 votes...
© 2007 Patty Inglish MS