Saturday, November 17, 2012

Will the Electoral College choose Romney?

270 of these Electoral College ballots determine who the US President will be.

How does the Electoral College work?

The Founding Fathers felt that an uneducated electorate might sometimes choose the wrong candidate, so, they created the Electoral College system in which State Electors can over-ride the popular vote.  The system was created in Article II of the Constitution and fine-tuned in the 12th Amendment in 1804. 

Electors are chosen in different ways, depending on the state; ranging from selections by the Legislature or the Governor, to Political Party recommendations.  In recent times, the State popular vote is a "Winner Take All" Electoral Vote proposition.  The exceptions are Nebraska and Maine, where Electors cast their votes according to the popular vote in their Districts.

VP reviews Electoral College Ballot

Electors selected by the States then come to Washington, DC in December to cast their ballots.  Generally, they cast their votes based on the popular vote results of the November election in their state; some have been known to violate that principle.

All the State Electors cast their vote for President.  The President of the Senate [the sitting US Vice President] counts the votes, and the candidate who wins the majority of the Electoral Votes [270 in the 2012 election] is selected as the US President.

However, If no candidate receives a majority of the electoral votes, the election of President is determined by a simple majority vote in the House of Representatives.

In the 2012 Presidential Election, the candidate with the majority [270] of the 538 Electoral votes wins.  The Election by Electoral Voters takes place in January 2013; so, the Electoral College could vote for Mr Romney, and Mr Obama would no longer be President-elect.

Bottom Line: 

The Presidential candidate who receives 270 electoral votes wins the election.  If neither candidate achieves 270 electoral votes, the House of Representatives elects the President by a simple majority vote. 

Only two US Presidents have been elected by the House of Representatives in this manner:
1) Thomas Jefferson in 1801
2) John Quincy Adams in 1825

Which Presidents won the election via the Electoral College vs the Popular Vote?

1)  1876:  Rutherford B. Hayes won 185 of the 369 Electoral Votes to Samuel J. Tilden's 184 Electoral Votes; although Tilden won the majority of the popular votes by a margin of nearly 300,00 votes.
2)  1888:  Benjamin Harrison won 233 of the 401 Electoral Votes to Grover Cleveland's 168 Electoral Votes.  Cleveland won the popular vote by a margin of about 500.
3)  2000:  George W. Bush won 271 of the 538 Electoral Votes to Al Gore's 266 Electoral Votes.  Gore won the Popular Vote by about 500,000 votes.

Who are the Electors?

California proposed to have Electors vote by District
The number of electors for each state equals the total number of senators and representatives that state has in Congress.  For example, California, has 53 Congressional Representatives and 2 Senators, thus, a total of 55 Electors -- with a total of 55 Electoral Votes. 

US Senators and Representatives may not serve as  Electors, although State elected officials, Party leaders, or supporters of a Presidential candidate may serve as Electors.

The Political Parties nominate Electors.  In the State general election, the ballots may [or may not] carry the name of the Electors beneath the name of the Presidential candidates; so, a vote for the Candidate will be a vote for the Elector.

With some exceptions, the candidate who receives the most votes receives all the electoral votes in that state. The state then sends its Electors to Washington to cast their votes in the Electoral College.

Laws differ by state; so, some states require electors to follow the popular vote; while other states allow Electors to vote for their Party's candidate.  Thus, it is possible for an elector to vote for a candidate who did not win the popular vote.

Electors in these states may cast their votes for any candidate they choose
Arizona (11)
Indiana (11)
Missouri (10)
Rhode Island (4)
Arkansas (6)
Iowa (6)
New Hampshire (4)
South Dakota (3)
Delaware (3)
Kansas (6)
New Jersey (14)
Tennessee (11)
Georgia (16)
Kentucky (8)
New York (29)
Texas (38)
Idaho (4)
Louisiana (8)
North Dakota (3)
Utah (6)
Illinois (20)
Minnesota (10)
Pennsylvania (20)
West Virginia (5)

There is an interpretation of this process, unconfirmed, that some Electors could WITHHOLD their votes entirely, preventing a clear majority -- which would cause the election to be shifted to the House of Representatives. 

That interpretation is based on Amendment XII which states:

"The person having the greatest number of votes for President shall be the President,
if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed."

Congress could un-elect President Obama

Although there is no precedent for a situation in which some Electors refuse to cast their votes -- thereby reducing the whole number of Electors appointed -- such an action would likely be reviewed by the Supreme Court, which would then refer the matter to the House to conduct the election of the President by simple majority.