I'm Right Again Dot ComA new commentary every Wednesday — July 6, 2016
TRYING TO EXPLAIN THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE: A process and not a place.
In the beginning, decisions in the American democracy were made by white, male property owners, and at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, the members were perplexed about how the President should be chosen.
After running for two terms without opposition, Washington let it be known that he would not accept a third term. At first, the members of Congress wished to make the choice of President and Vice President amongst themselves, but someone pointed out that this violated the separation of powers construct of the Constitution. It also became immediately apparent that members of Congress would each be inclined to nominate their state's most popular native son...or themselves, for the office.
A so-called Council of Eleven of the Constitutional Convention proposed an "indirect" method for voters to elect the President and his/her Vice Presidential running mate. (Well yes, expanding the franchise from only the male gentry and including the "her" part came much later.)
"College" in this case means people coming together for a common purpose.
In the meantime, two major political parties came into being. The Federalists and the Democratic-Republican party of Madison and Jefferson, hopefully intending to better protect State's rights.
After some convulsions in the initial years of our Republic, the twelfth amendment to the Constitution evolved, whereby it was established that each state would have the same number of Electors to the Electoral College as the number of members in their respective Congressional Delegations: one for each member of the House of Representatives, plus one for each Senator. Under the twenty-third amendment, the District of Columbia was allocated three electors. At the present, I believe there to be a total of 538.
And yes, Dorothy, it is entirely possible that a pair of candidates—President and Vice President—can win the majority of popular votes in these United States and still lose the election. In all but two states, Maine and Nebraska, it is a "winner-take-all electors" contest. In those two states, this electoral anomaly is further compounded. The states are divided into districts, with one electoral vote awarded to whichever of the pair of nominees has the majority of votes in each of the districts.
I should hope by now the concept that when you vote for a presidential-vice presidential nominee team you are actually voting for that team's Elector—is fully realized.
Laws vary from state to state on just how the Electors are selected and what their responsibility are. Generally, the political parties nominate Electors at state conventions or by a vote of the parties' state central committees. Electors are usually chosen for their service and dedication to their party.
The Constitution does not require them to vote for the Presidential/Vice Presidential candidates who carry their state, but 99 percent of the time they do. On occasion, one or another elector will bolt—perhaps for a third party candidate. I've many reasons to believe that more mavericks among the electors may "misbehave" this year than ever before.
The meeting of the Electoral College takes place on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December following the election. By then, we will have already known for weeks who is to be President and Vice President for the next four years, and the words "Electoral College" will have been permitted to fade once again from the political lexicon.
Hopefully, someone will explain to me why we shouldn't permit a popular vote to prevail and do away with the Electoral College. That would be no easy task, for it would require a further amendment to the Constitution, but it certainly is doable.
On the other hand, my dear father would insist that it is possible for us to already have too much of a good thing: an excess of democracy.
-Phil Richardson, Observer of the human condition and storyteller. "He goes doddering on into his old age, making a public nuisance of himself." - Joseph L. Mencken
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