There seems to be a renewed interest in the Electoral College. There are two reasons for this:
One is because one or both of the political conventions could be “brokered”. This increases the possibility that one or more independent candidates will enter the presidential election process. If this happens the role of the Electoral College will get a lot more attention. My next post will be about the escalating levels of turmoil in both parties and the likely effect it will have on the conventions and ultimately the November elections.
The second is due to an Electoral College elector from a western state calling in to a talk radio show and saying that the people do not elect the President, they (the electors) do. Earlier this week a second elector publicly made the same claim.
The Electoral College was actually created by the Founding fathers during the Constitutional Convention in 1787. The following information is about why the Electoral College was created, some of its history, how it has been changed with Constitutional Amendments, and how it works today.
William C. Kimberling begins one of his articles with an excellent analysis as to why the Founding Fathers needed to create the Electoral College.
by William C. Kimberling, Deputy Director FEC National Clearinghouse on Election administration
In order to appreciate the reasons for the Electoral College, it is essential to understand its historical context and the problem that the Founding Fathers were trying to solve. They faced the difficult question of how to elect the President of a new country that:
- was composed of thirteen large and small States jealous of their own rights and powers and suspicious of any central national government
- contained only 4,000,000 people spread up and down a thousand miles of Atlantic seaboard barely connected by transportation or communication (so that national campaigns were impractical)
- believed political parties were mischievous if not downright evil, and
- felt that gentlemen should not campaign for public office (The saying was “The office should seek the man, the man should not seek the office.”).
The following explanation of the Electoral College process is posted on the US Government Archives
The Electoral College is a process, not a place. The founding fathers established it in the Constitution in 1787 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.
The selection of the electors, the meeting of the electors where they vote for the President and Vice President, and the counting of the electoral votes by Congress are all part of the process..
Today the Electoral College has 538 electors. A majority of 270 electoral votes is required to elect the President. Your state’s allotment of electors equals the number of members in its Congressional delegation: one for each member in the House of Representatives plus two for your Senators.
Under the 23rd Amendment of the Constitution, the District of Columbia is allocated 3 electors and treated like a state for purposes of the Electoral College. For this reason, in the following discussion, the word “state” also refers to the District of Columbia.
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 elected and what their responsibilities are.
The presidential election is held every four years on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. You help choose your state’s electors when you vote for President because when you vote for your candidate you are actually voting for your candidate’s electors. Emphasis by me because I think it is important for people to understand that their vote for the President does count.
Most states have a “winner-take-all” system that awards all electors to the winning presidential candidate. However, Maine and Nebraska each have a variation of “proportional representation”.
After the presidential election, your governor prepares a “Certificate of Ascertainment” listing all of the candidates who ran for President in your state along with the names of their respective electors. The Certificate of Ascertainment also declares the winning presidential candidate in your state and shows which electors will represent your state at the meeting of the electors in December of the election year. Your state’s Certificates of Ascertainments are sent to the Congress and the National Archives as part of the official records of the presidential election. The meeting of the electors takes place on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December after the presidential election. The electors meet in their respective states, where they cast their votes for President and Vice President on separate ballots. Your state’s electors’ votes are recorded on a “Certificate of Vote,” which is prepared at the meeting by the electors. Your state’s Certificates of Votes are sent to the Congress and the National Archives as part of the official records of the presidential election.
Each state’s electoral votes are counted in a joint session of Congress on the 6th of January in the year following the meeting of the electors. Members of the House and Senate meet in the House chamber to conduct the official tally of electoral votes. .
The Vice President, as President of the Senate, presides over the count and announces the results of the vote. The President of the Senate then declares which persons, if any, have been elected President and Vice President of the United States.
The President-Elect takes the oath of office and is sworn in as President of the United States on January 20th in the year following the Presidential election.
Note: The information posted here was edited for clarity and relevance. You can use the links above to see the complete and original articles.