Only a very few presidential Electoral College Electors decided not to vote for the candidate chosen by their home state. Several of them were forced to change their vote, or disqualified and replaced by alternates. Texas is one of the states that allows electors to vote in accordance with their conscience, which is in keeping with the Founders original intent. However, the Republican party expects electors to vote for the Republican nominee. [Read more…]
Political analysts are focused on the Republican nominating contest. Some believe that Donald Trump may amass 1,237 delegates and win the nomination at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Others believe that no one will win a majority on the first ballot and in subsequent ballots the “Trump” delegates (who in many cases are not chosen by the Trump campaign) would coalesce in support of a Republican more palatable to the establishment.
Members of the electoral college met today in all fifty state capitals and the District of Columbia to officially cast their votes for President and Vice-President of the United State. Here are some highlights from Pennsylvania, Florida and Arizona.
“What! No write-in votes for me?” — State Senator Daylin Leach (D-PA).
“I will quote loosely Vice-President Biden: ‘This is a…. uh… big deal.'” — State Party Chairman Rod Smith (D-FL)
Arizona Public Radio reports that the state’s electors cast their ballots for Romney — but not before three of them said questions remain about whether Barack Obama was born in this country. “I’m not satisfied with what I’ve seen. I think for somebody in the president’s position to not have produced a document that looks more legitimate, I have a problem with that.” — State Party Chairman Tom Morrissey (R-AZ)
According to the Los Angeles Times:
More than five weeks after election day, almost all the presidential votes have been counted. Here’s what the near-final tally reveals: The election really wasn’t close.”
In the weeks since the election, as states have completed their counts, Obama’s margin has grown steadily. From just over 2 percentage points, it now stands at nearly 4. Rather than worry about the Bush-Kerry precedent, White House aides now brag that Obama seems all but certain to achieve a mark hit by only five others in U.S. history – winning the presidency twice with 51% or more of the popular vote
— by Chet Culver, Former Governor of Iowa
America devotes a lot of time and money to the idea of democracy. We promote it at home, and teach the concept to our schoolchildren. Our military bravely defends it abroad.
In a democracy, whomever gets the most votes wins the election. I was elected Governor of Iowa with the most votes. That’s the way we elect senators. The same is true for dogcatchers. The winner wins in every election in the United States, with one exception: the election of the leader of the free world.
In American history, candidates have won a majority of the Electoral College (and hence the White House) without winning the most popular votes in 4 of the nation’s 56 presidential elections. That’s 1 in 14 times. If car companies had this sort of failure rate, you’d never get behind the wheel.
More after the jump.
|2000: Bush 271 – Gore 286
|2004: Bush 286 – Kerry 251
But the big picture is worse, thanks to “near miss” elections. Everybody remembers the 2000 election where Al Gore won the popular vote nationally but lost Florida by ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court. But we tend to forget the night of the 2004 election, when the presidency came down to Ohio. A shift of 60,000 votes in that state in 2004 would have given the Electoral College majority vote to John Kerry despite President Bush’s nationwide popular vote lead of 3,000,000 votes.
Landslide elections, in which the vote margin is sufficient to render the whole question moot, are increasingly infrequent. The electorate is fragmented and polarized, and close presidential elections are likely to become the norm. That means more second place winners.
This likely explains why more than 70% of voters support a system that guarantees the presidency to the winner of the overall popular vote.
Fortunately, the National Popular Vote Plan just does that.
Under this state-based plan, states will award their electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote in the entire United States. The U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures the power to fix our broken system. According to Article II, section 1, states have exclusive control over the manner of awarding their electoral votes.
The plan would do away with the winner-take-all system, currently in use by 48 out of 50 states (Nebraska and Maine being the two exceptions). In addition to causing second-place winners, the system makes some votes hundreds of times more important than others, and causes non-battleground states to be ignored.
The National Popular Vote Bill has been introduced in all 50 state legislatures. (In Pennsylvania, it is Senate Bill 1116 and House Bill 1270.) The bill would take effect only when enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes; that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538).
Chet Culver was Governor of Iowa (2007-2011) and Secretary of State (1999-2007) He now serves as National Co-Champion for Support Popular Vote.
In September 2011, Pennsylvania State Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R) proposed that Pennsylvania’s electoral votes be allocated by congressional district, as opposed to the current winner-take-all basis (wherein all of Pennsylvania’s electoral votes are awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes statewide in Pennsylvania). Under the district plan, the voters would elect one presidential elector for each of a state’s 18 congressional districts and 2 presidential electors on an at-large statewide basis.
The district approach would magnify the shortcomings of the current statewide winner-take-all system.
The best solution is the National Popular Vote bill. The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the entire United States.
More after the jump.
The district approach for awarding electoral votes would magnify the shortcomings of the current statewide winner-take-all system.
- ACCURACY: The district approach would less accurately reflect the national popular vote than the current system and would increase the chance of electing a President who did not win the national popular vote.
- COMPETITIVENESS: The district approach would reduce the already small percentage of the people of the country who are relevant in presidential elections. Seven-eighths of the people of the country live in non-competitive “spectator” congressional districts, compared to two-thirds who live in non-competitive “spectator” states. Voters in only a few of Pennsylvania’s 18 congressional districts would matter in presidential elections under the district approach.
- EQUALITY: The district approach would not make every vote equal.
As to accuracy, when Bush lost the national popular vote in 2000, he nonetheless won 55% of the country’s 435 congressional districts. In 2004, Bush’s won 50.7% of the popular vote, but 59% of the districts. If the district approach were implemented selectively in a large state (say, in Pennsylvania, but not Texas), the overall system would be less reflective of the national popular vote than the current system and would increase the likelihood of electing a President who did not win the national popular vote.
As to competitiveness, candidates have no reason to campaign in areas where they are comfortably ahead or hopelessly behind. Nationally, there are only about 55 congressional districts that are competitive in presidential elections.
Under the district approach, every vote would not be equal. Congressional districts are created with equal population, but not an equal number of voters. There were, for example, three times more votes cast for President in Congressman Mike Thompson’s district in northern California in 2006 than in Jim Costa’s district in the Central Valley or in Loretta Sanchez’s district in Orange County.
As John Samples of the Cato Institute recently pointed out in a panel discussion at the National Conference of State Legislatures, the district approach would extend the effects of gerrymandering of congressional districts to the highest office in the land.
Allocation of electoral votes by congressional district was used by Massachusetts in the nation’s first presidential election in 1789. North Carolina and Virginia did something similar in that they allocated electoral votes by special presidential electors districts in 1789. Over the years, various states have used the district approach. In 1969, Maine adopted this method of allocating electoral votes. Nebraska did so in 1992. In 2008, Barack Obama won one of Nebraska’s electoral votes by carrying the 2nd congressional district (while John McCain won the 1st and 3rd districts and statewide).
Currently, 48 of the 50 states award electoral votes on a “winner-take-all” basis.
The congressional district approach for awarding electoral votes is clearly constitutional. In the 1892 case of McPherson v. Blacker (1892), the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Michigan’s switch from the winner-take-all system to a system in which one electoral vote was awarded to the candidate who received the most votes in each congressional district (and in which the state’s remaining two electoral votes were awarded to the candidate who received the most votes in each of two special districts, each containing half of the state).
The manner of conducting presidential elections is covered in Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution saying “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors.” The constitutional wording “as the Legislature thereof may direct” contains no restrictions. It does not encourage, discourage, require, or prohibit the use of any particular method for awarding the state’s electoral votes.
For example, the now-prevailing winner-take-all rule was used by only three states when the Founding Fathers went back to their states to organize the nation’s first presidential election in 1789. It did not become prominent until the pre-Civil-War era – long after the Constitution was written and ratified and long after the Founding Fathers were dead. Maine enacted its congressional-district system in 1969, and Nebraska did so in 1992.
The U.S. Supreme Court has characterized the authority of the states over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as “plenary” and “exclusive.” States may allocate their electoral votes in any manner (provided, of course, that it does not violate some other section of the Constitution). The states have used a variety of methods in the past. Massachusetts has changed methods 11 times, and many other states have changed their methods three or four times. The district system was used in Michigan for the 1892 presidential election, but repealed in time for the 1896 election. This issue is discussed in detail in section 8.3 of the book Every Vote Equal: A State-Based Plan for Election the President by National Popular Vote.
At any given time, there are bills in approximately 40% of the state legislatures to allocate the state’s electoral vote by congressional district.
Such bills occasionally pass one house of a state legislature. For example, such a bill was passed by the Democratic-controlled North Carolina Senate in 2007 (in a state that usually voted Republican in presidential elections) and was passed a year few ago by the Republican-controlled New York Senate (in a state that usually voted Democratic in presidential elections).
In California in 2007, an initiative petition was circulated to divide the state’s 55 electoral votes by congressional district; however, the petition failed to get enough signatures to qualify for the June 2008 ballot.
For more details, see sections 3.3 and 4.2 of the book Every Vote Equal: A State-Based Plan for Election the President by National Popular Vote.
Pennsylvania has the chance to join an initiative to establish the popular vote for the presidency. Why play games with the electoral vote?
Bruce Ticker testified to the Pennsylvania State Government Committees arguing against the Republican attempt to re-engineer Pennsylvania’s electoral vote in their favor. His solution for a fairer Presidential election?
The National Popular Vote.
Written testimony follows the jump.
The Hon. Members of the Pennsylvania Legislature:
I love the United States. I feel so very lucky to have been born in this country. The Constitution was signed on Sept. 17, 1787, and was subsequently ratified by the 13 states. Congress formally convened in March 1789 and George Washington was inaugurated as our first President on April 30, 1789.
The Constitution is a great document that has served as the foundation for our governing process. It nonetheless contains serious flaws.
I have long been concerned about the system for choosing a President as authorized by the Constitution. Why do I phrase it that way? Yes, it’s a mouthful. Wouldn’t it be simpler to call it the presidential election? This process is not an election.
Your proposal to seek an alternative to the winner-takes-all method has its merits and drawbacks. However, any process administered in the framework of the Electoral College is inequitable and insults the intelligence of the average voter.
There is only one fair and just means of selecting the people who run our government – the direct vote. Every time each of you runs for office, you trust the judgment of your constituents. You accept that. Otherwise, you would not remain part of the system.
The direct vote must also be the means for choosing our Presidents. Especially, successful presidential candidates have assumed the Presidency four times without winning the popular vote. The last time this occurred was only 11 years ago.
I respectfully request that you abandon this course and direct your energies and resources to replace the electoral college with the popular vote. I confess that until recently I thought we had only one avenue available – the amendment process. Any amendment approved by Congress must be ratified by three-fourths of the 50 states. Theoretically, 14 million citizens can block an amendment. That is the collective population of the 13 or 14 least populous states. Our current population is estimated at 308 million people.
The amendment process is an arduous obstacle course.
To my delight, I learned that Gov. Jerry Brown of California signed legislation on Aug. 8, 2011, to participate in an initiative which would effectively sideline the electoral vote without struggling through the amendment process.
This initiative, called the National Popular Vote, has been lobbying officials in the 50 states to agree to an interstate compact. Each state would agree to release its electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the vote nationwide.
To succeed, this system requires the participation of states with a combined 270 electoral votes, the majority currently required for a candidate to win.
Gov. Brown’s signature added 55 electoral votes to the initiative, the largest collection of votes from America’s most populous state. This step raised the total from 77 to 132 votes.
You now have an historic opportunity to build on the foundation of our system, the Constitution. You can contribute to providing the United States with the direct vote for President. You can start the process now to consider participating in this initiative.
Pennsylvania would add 20 electoral votes. The popular vote would provide all of us with a direct measure of power in selecting our president. It would expand upon our freedoms and enliven the political process.
The framers of our Constitution did not create the electoral system in a vacuum. Historians cite a number of interrelated factors. Among them, communications were sparse. No e-mails, no Action News, newspapers were just starting to evolve. The average citizen had no realistic means of being informed of the qualifications of the candidates.
Because of our technological advances and the range of today’s news media, voters today can readily access the qualifications of the presidential candidates. For that matter, we often get too much information about them.
It is hardly news to you that the majority party has been accused of proposing this plan to obtain political advantage. Practically speaking, the popular vote will likely benefit Democrats because Democratic-leaning voters are clustered more in metropolitan areas, and Republicans tend to be scattered more in the suburbs and rural areas. For the record, I am a registered Democrat.
My prime concern is good government in order to better serve the public. The popular vote can only facilitate good government. I can think of reforms that Democratic Party leaders may not be anxious to embrace.
Again, I ask you to abandon this proposal for awarding electoral votes. Forgive the cliché, but that plan accomplishes nothing more than rearranging the deck chairs. Please focus your attention on ending the impact of the electoral college.
Thank you for your attention.
Bruce S. Ticker
— by State Senator Daylin Leach
In America, we don’t elect our presidents directly. Each state elects representatives to the “electoral college”, which technically “elects” our president. For the past 224 years, since the first time we elected George Washington President, Pennsylvania has joined virtually every other state in casting all of its electoral votes for the presidential candidate who won the state’s popular vote. This has always made Pennsylvania a critical state in national elections because of the number of electoral votes we deliver.
On September 12, Governor Corbett endorsed changing our system and instead awarding one electoral vote to a presidential candidate for each congressional district they win. It is important to be clear. This is an obscene, transparent, blatantly partisan change in the rules, designed for one purpose only; to help Republican Presidential candidates. Republican leaders are distressed that their candidates have lost Pennsylvania in the past five elections, and they wish to correct this problem, not by fielding better candidates or making more compelling arguments, but by stacking the deck to ensure their nominees receive the majority of Pennsylvania’s electoral votes, regardless of how the people of our state actually vote.
We should be extremely suspicious anytime one political party unilaterally tries to directly affect the outcome of future elections. In this case, the Republicans in Harrisburg want to award electoral votes according to congressional districts. And who is drawing those congressional districts? Harrisburg Republicans! They control the congressional redistricting process completely. So they will essentially be deciding ahead of time just how many votes to guarantee future Republican presidential candidates. In fact, the congressional redistricting now occurring is likely to create 12 solidly Republican districts and 6 Democratic ones. This assures any Republican presidential candidate a clear majority of the state’s electoral votes. This means that your vote in the presidential election will be meaningless.
Not only will our votes as individuals be rendered useless, this plan will also end Pennsylvania’s status as a battleground state and will make us completely irrelevant to presidential campaigns. Why should candidates come here when we will know in advance what the final electoral vote count will be? Presidential candidates will spend far more of their time in states where electoral votes will actually be in play. It is extremely strange and distressing that our governor is pushing a plan that would make Pennsylvania matter less in national politics.
Notice that Republicans who control states that Republican presidential candidates usually win show absolutely no interest in changing their rules. We won’t be seeing this proposal moving in Texas or Mississippi. It is only states that Republicans currently control, but which tend to vote Democratic in national elections which will see the rules of their elections altered. Any change to our electoral college should be adopted uniformly across the nation, with buy-in from both red and blue states so there is no effort to rig future elections.
The Governor gives lip service to improving our electoral system. However, this bill has nothing to do with good government. It is simply a partisan power-grab. If Governor Corbett was really interested in improving Pennsylvania’s electoral structure, he would support bi-partisan proposals such as early voting, no-excuse absentee voting or a national popular vote. But he opposes all of these. Instead, the governor supports this bill, as well as additional legislation which will make it harder for people who disproportionately do not vote Republican to vote at all, such as requiring photo ID every time someone goes to the polls. This will disenfranchise millions of the poor, the elderly, and those who live in cities. In the past, there were times when Democrats have controlled the whole process. They could have passed anything they wished, and when it comes to substantive policy, they often did. But nobody ever attempted to abuse their temporary control to fix future elections. As the prime sponsor of redistricting reform, I find it particularly disheartening that this proposal will make gerrymandering an even more entrenched part of the system. This is extremely disappointing coming from a governor who ran on a promise to reform our political system.
Elections in a democracy are sacred. Permanently changing the rules which were created by our founders and which we’ve all lived by for centuries, in order to benefit your political party is profoundly wrong. It desecrates our history and is a repugnant attack on the very core of our nationhood. The governor’s endorsement of this profanity brings to mind the famous words of Joseph Welch spoken to Senator Joe McCarthy during another attack on the basic structure of our democracy. “Have you no sense of decency?”