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How the President of the United States is “Elected”
Posted: 27 October 2006 08:28 PM   [ Ignore ]
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This has bothered me since high school.

electing the president 

I especially don’t like this part:

The citizens don’t actually decide who the President is. The Electoral College decides. The Electoral College is a group of electors. Each state has a number of electors depending on the population of the state. The electors usually vote the way the citizens vote. However, some states require electors to vote like the citizens and some do not.

“Faithless Electors”
It turns out there is no federal law that requires an elector to vote according to their pledge (to their respective party). And so, more than a few electors have cast their votes without following the popular vote or their party. These electors are called “faithless electors.”
In response to these faithless electors’ actions, several states have created laws to enforce an elector’s pledge to his or her party vote or the popular vote. Some states even go the extra step to assess a misdemeanor charge and a fine to such actions. For example, the state of North Carolina charges a fine of $10,000 to faithless electors.

It’s important to note, that although these states have created these laws, a large number of scholars believe that such state-level laws hold no true bearing and would not survive constitutional challenge.


No Legal Requirement
Electors in these States are not bound by State Law to cast their vote for a specific candidate:

ARIZONA - 10 Electoral Votes
ARKANSAS - 6 Electoral Votes
DELAWARE - 3 Electoral Votes
GEORGIA - 15 Electoral Votes
IDAHO - 4 Electoral Votes
ILLINOIS - 21 Electoral Votes
INDIANA - 11 Electoral Votes
IOWA - 7 Electoral Votes
KANSAS - 6 Electoral Votes
KENTUCKY - 8 Electoral Votes
LOUISIANA - 9 Electoral Votes
MINNESOTA - 10 Electoral Votes
MISSOURI - 11 Electoral Votes
NEW HAMPSHIRE - 4 Electoral Votes
NEW JERSEY - 15 Electoral Votes
NEW YORK - 31 Electoral Votes
NORTH DAKOTA - 3 Electoral Votes
PENNSYLVANIA - 21 Electoral Votes
RHODE ISLAND - 4 Electoral Votes
SOUTH DAKOTA - 3 Electoral Votes
TENNESSEE - 11 Electoral Votes
TEXAS - 34 Electoral Votes
UTAH - 5 Electoral Votes
WEST VIRGINIA - 5 Electoral Votes

So basically the electors in ANY state can vote however the hell they want regardless of what the people say.  Historically 99% of electors have honored their states wishes, but 99% is not 100%, so who’s to say one day a few electors from key states will just say to hell with it, we don’t want the “people’s choice”? 

Remember, we all said that “it’ll never happen” when we theorized the possibility of the winner of the popular vote not being the winner of the electoral vote.  And it happened!!!!

Am I nuts for being pissed off about this for the last 25 years?  Is it crazy that my country goes in and tells other countries how to run a “democratic” election, when our own constitution (which can be amended) legally allows just a few guys to “elect” whomever they wish? 

Yep, it’ll happen.  Maybe not the next election or the next, but at some point, it’ll happen it we don’t amend the constitution and change the way we vote.

OK, rant over.  Have a good weekend.

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Posted: 27 October 2006 09:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I agree that it’s a rather stupid system, but you also need to look at who the electors are and how they’re chosen.

No hard facts here, just my own faulty memory from what I read after the 2000 election (and from high school government class, which was even longer ago):

Electors are chosen by the political party they represent.  The Republicans decide who their electors will be.  The Democrats decide who their electors will be.  If the Republicans win a state they shoose the Republican electors for that state.  These positions are generally filled with very loyal party members and are a “reward” for years of loyal service to the party.

The last time any large number of electoral voters switched was when Reagan won re-election by a landslide.  Several Democrat electors switched and voted for him.  They were effectively disgraced in the Democratic party.  To what extent and what happened to them exactly after that I couldn’t tell you.

So, no, it’s not impossible for it to happen.  It’s just not likely the way the parties are currently run.

And I don’t ever remember anyone saying that a president couldn’t lose the popular election but win the eletoral election.  In fact, I thought that it had happened before (though not in “modern” times)?  But maybe that was a very close call that was cited as an example after the 2000 election.

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Posted: 27 October 2006 10:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Yes, Tah, it happened in the Harrison vs Cleveland election of 1888, see here - http://www.whitehouse.gov/history/presidents/gc2224.html
and may have also happened in Gore vs Bush, much more recently, tho that is still in dispute among historians, and of course, the parties. 
In any case, Bebelicious, it is my opinion that this ability of the Electoral College to over-ride the popular vote in a really tight race, is one of the signatures of a free, constitutional republic with democratic ideals, which is what our nation truly is.  It is NOT a true democracy, and never has been.

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Posted: 27 October 2006 10:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Not to be one-sided, of course -
http://www.whitehouse.gov/history/presidents/bh23.html
Btw - the only truly democratic society was that of the short-lived ancient first Greek Republic - think Aristotle, and those guys.  It didn’t work for very long.

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Posted: 28 October 2006 04:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Yep, an “Athenien Democracy’ is where all citizens vote on all issues. Doesn’t work too well as the group gets larger, as it requires the voters be informed and educated upon every point of every bit of legislation. Appointing representatives (representative democracy) works much more efficiently, but can lead to politics.

I think it mainly came about as a method to expedite voting. It also makes for easier controls such as recounts or runoff elections.

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Posted: 28 October 2006 08:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Yes stork, this happened twice in the 19th century: http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/benedetto/230.htm

“So, for the most part, the candidate who wins the popular vote also wins in the Electoral College. But twice in our history, that was not the case.

In 1876, Democrat Samuel Tilden received about 250,000 more popular votes than Republican Rutherford B. Hayes. But Hayes won the election, 185 electoral votes to Tilden’s 184 after a special electoral commission looking into charges of fraud, awarded Hayes 19 disputed electoral votes.

In 1888, Democrat Grover Cleveland received 91,000 more popular votes than Republican Benjamin Harrison, but Harrison won in the Electoral College, 233-168.”
—————————“Electoral reformers for years have wanted to amend the Constitution to abolish the Electoral College before another crisis occurs. But they have never had much success.

Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill, has introduced a resolution in the House to get rid of the system. But the measure is stuck in committee. ‘‘I have no illusions that this is going to happen any time soon,’’ he says

Unless, of course, someone wins the popular vote and loses the presidency. Could that be this year? We’ll see.

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Posted: 28 October 2006 09:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Well, the notion of an electoral college was really a compromise thought up by the people putting together the US Constitution.  They didn’t want the President chosen by Congress because that would negate the whole “checks and balances” idea, and they didn’t want him elected directly by the people because that’s both an unwieldy method and it might give the President too much power by popular mandate (and also probably because the people drawing up the Constitution were snobs and didn’t want the vote in the hands of grubby uneducated commoners).  And as a compromise, the electoral college naturally doesn’t really make anybody totally happy.  But it did actually work quite well for the first few elections; people then thought of themselves more as being citizens of their state than of their country, and the whole system of national political parties hadn’t come about yet, so it fit the needs of the country well.

Politics changed gradually, though, and so the electoral college became a bit anachronistic and had to be modified.  It does still have a few good points, such as making it more likely that at least somebody has a clear majority and making it necessary that that majority be over a wider range of the country (rather than Houston, New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago determining every four years who is President).

The general public does have a voice in the election in that they elect which group of electors will elect the President.  The problem then only comes from the electors going off and doing weird things on their own.  There aren’t really any Federal laws regarding how that is dealt with because the electoral college is one of the powers delegated to the states.  So it’s up to the states to deal with that sort of thing.  Why the states haven’t bound the electors more I don’t know; as far as I can see, it would create as ideal an elective system as is realistically possible if they did do.  As Tah said, though, it pretty much destroys their politcal careers when electors mess around with the vote.

Tah - 28 October 2006 01:53 AM

And I don’t ever remember anyone saying that a president couldn’t lose the popular election but win the eletoral election.  In fact, I thought that it had happened before (though not in “modern” times)?  But maybe that was a very close call that was cited as an example after the 2000 election.

Yes, as Stork pointed out it happened to Harrison, and also to one of the Adams and to, ummm, some other President in the 1800’s.

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Posted: 28 October 2006 12:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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In a way, yes, in John Quincy Adams vs Andrew Jackson & two other guys! - see
http://www.whitehouse.gov/history/presidents/ja6.html
and, as Huli said, Tilden vs Hayes.

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Posted: 28 October 2006 04:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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My understanding was that this system was set up so that we backwater rubes who didn’t know anything about politics in the big cities could just elect our smartest guy to go to the electoral college and vote on our behalf.

The only modern justification I’ve heard is that it exagerrates the win and avoids there ever occuring a situation where we’re not sure who won.  ; )

Basically, the winner-take-all way of doing it means that if you win a state by a little bit, you get all the votes, so you can have a very very close popular election, but the winner has a comfortable margin of victory (usually).

I say we’re long past time to have some kind of proportional set up in place (if not a very simple nationwide popular election).  It would require a constitutional amendment (and probably a whole lot of new legislation in each state of the Union). 

I think a more feasible goal would be to get some meaningful campaign reform (not just the finance part either—but actually make it so campaign ads can’t tell flat out lies or make grossly misleading statements—for example, Jim Talent’s current ad says he voted for a minimum wage increase—that might be so, but he voted against bills that included minimum wage increases some dozen times, and he surely isn’t promising he’d ever vote FOR one again—but he’ll happily accept votes from constituents who think just that).  Get the big money out, have some system of accountability in the ads, and set up a real system of debate that will actually let the voters hear how the candidates will address issues that are likely to be before them.  (These debates that are merely negotiated between the TWO parties guarantee only one thing—neither candidate will have to look bad.  This does the public a disservice.)

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Posted: 28 October 2006 10:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Again, strangely enough, I was reading a copy of the American Legion magazine, October 2006 edition, today, and at the end of the ‘Letters to the Editor’ section, they printed the following, and I quote (except for the author’s name, which I’m not too sure of);
CORRECTION: In Barry Wright’s (sic) editorial from the September edition, the reference to a similarity in the United States and Iran regarding having a popularly-elected President is incorrect.  The United States does not have a popularly-elected President.  Our apologies for any confusion this may have caused. Enough said?

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Posted: 29 October 2006 08:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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JoeDaJuggler - 28 October 2006 08:28 PM

I think a more feasible goal would be to get some meaningful campaign reform (not just the finance part either—but actually make it so campaign ads can’t tell flat out lies or make grossly misleading statements—for example, Jim Talent’s current ad says he voted for a minimum wage increase—that might be so, but he voted against bills that included minimum wage increases some dozen times, and he surely isn’t promising he’d ever vote FOR one again—but he’ll happily accept votes from constituents who think just that).

Not that I’m trying to defend Jim Talent (I have no idea who he is, where he is, what he is, why he is, or what he’s running for or from), but sometimes when somebody in the legislature votes against a bill it’s not really what it looks like.  A trick that is sometimes used, when there is a needed or a popular bill being put together, is to stick in a little completely unrelated amendment.

For example, the bill might cut taxes in half for all Americans and raise the minimum wage up to $20 an hour and decrease pollution by 99% and provide for completely free health care, but then some guy will stick in a little unrelated and unpopular bit that he really wants, such as making it mandatory that every American cut off his or her right leg at the age of 16.  And since you have to vote either for or against the entire bill, not just piece by piece, then any Congressman who wants to let Americans have the choice of being bipedal has to vote against the bill.  It’s basically a win/win situation for the guy who adds the amendment, because either he manages to force his unpopular law through or else all his opponents look bad for voting against what would otherwise be a popular bill.

Are you sure it’s not a situation like that?

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Posted: 29 October 2006 09:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Robin Bobcat - 28 October 2006 08:31 AM

Yep, an “Athenien Democracy’ is where all citizens vote on all issues. Doesn’t work too well as the group gets larger, as it requires the voters be informed and educated upon every point of every bit of legislation. Appointing representatives (representative democracy) works much more efficiently, but can lead to politics.

I think it mainly came about as a method to expedite voting. It also makes for easier controls such as recounts or runoff elections.

JoeDaJuggler - 28 October 2006 08:28 PM

  My understanding was that this system was set up so that we backwater rubes who didn’t know anything about politics in the big cities could just elect our smartest guy to go to the electoral college and vote on our behalf.

I realize the US is a Republic and not a Democracy, and I don’t want to vote on every single issue, but I feel in electing those officials, the person with the most votes should be the winner without any possible/obvious loopholes.  The electoral college may have made good sense back in 1776 or 1876. but now in the 21st century, we don’t need some guy to run to Washington on horse or a stagecoach for us to deliver our decision.  Technology has advanced a bit.

JoeDaJuggler - 28 October 2006 08:28 PM

I think a more feasible goal would be to get some meaningful campaign reform (not just the finance part either—but actually make it so campaign ads can’t tell flat out lies or make grossly misleading statements-

I’m waiting to see THIS public service annoucement on my local television station:  Because we cannot discriminate, and because it would not be possible to weigh the truth in each and every accusatory political advertisement solicited to this station, we will run NO political ads this election season unless they are bought in 1/2 hour blocks between 2 and 4 AM. so that you may actually enjoy your CSI, Lost, Prison Break, and Grey’s Anatomy as intended.  Please feel free to search your internet or library and go the research yourself.

Of course it’ll never happen because

Federal regulations are specific and clear about what political ads television stations are required to air.

  Wonder who made up them rules.

I’ll probably just get my campaign news from Jon Stewart again this election.  cool smirk

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