Interesting Facts About Electors — Faithless or Not
I just opened a Facebook account and what a brave new world I find myself in. In this moment, I am scrolling through posts, clicking on buttons and tabs to see where they take me and generally feeling like a baby taking her first steps into the world of social media.
Quite by accident, I stumbled upon a gentleman who had taken it upon himself to identify all the members of the Electoral College by state, complete with their home address and a beautifully crafted — impeccable — letter asking each person to be a “faithless elector” and vote for Hillary. I decided to download the letters, sign them and hand address envelopes to electors in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida. Close to seventy pieces of mail were deposited in my post office lobby last night at 10:00pm.
I sent the letters because I could; I sent the letters because I wanted to respectfully express my position on this election; I sent my letters with a tiny hope one more voice might sway an individual into the “faithless” camp. An interesting thing started to happen while I was addressing envelopes. I started thinking of each “elector” as a real live person.
As I addressed Mr. or Ms. First Name Last Name, I wondered how old they were, what they looked like, what they did for a living, did they have a family, how they got involved in this campaign, were they getting lots of letters, and how were they handling the pressure. My wonderment got bigger and bigger. The biggest was did these folks understand their power in defining the course of this country by endorsing Trump or voting for Hillary? Who said one individual does not have the power to change the world?
With so much at stake, I had to tell myself the truth that I really did not understand the Electoral College, so I started researching and found some things that were really interesting to me. Here are the highlights:
· Wow! The Constitution only states the electoral vote for a state is calculated by adding the number of representatives for that state in the House of Representatives to the number of senators — which is always two.
· Each state decides whether the state goes winner-take-all to the person with the highest number of votes in that state’s voting OR split vote which is based on the proportion of votes a candidate receives in a particular state. Maine and Nebraska are the only two states that use the split vote. Use of the split vote would reflect popular vote.
· It seems an easier fix to have states amend their constitutions and move to split vote rather than change the U.S. Constitution and abolish the Electoral College altogether which would require passing an amendment — something very hard to do!!
· Electors cast their ballots first for the President. The candidate that receives more than 50% of the ballots wins. They then vote for the Vice President. The candidate with more than 50% of the ballots wins. It is possible to elect a President and Vice President from different parties.· There have been 158 “faithless electors” since the constitution was written in 1787. In 71 of the 158 cases, the voting changed because the pledged candidate died before the election. In 1836, all 23 of Virginia’s electors pledged to Martin Van Buren as President refused to vote for his running mate Richard M. Johnson since Johnson was living with a family slave with whom he had two children. They changed their votes as a matter of “conscience”. There are no guidelines in the constitution regarding a “faithless” vote.
· Twenty-one states do not have laws compelling their electors to vote for a pledged candidate. Twenty-nine states plus the District of Columbia have laws to penalize faithless electors, although these have never been enforced. Now it makes sense to me why Christopher Suprun sought legal counsel in Texas when he announced he would not vote for Trump. And why his law firm, Durie Tangri, offered free services for any elector who wishes to change their vote.
· The winner-take-all arrangement resulted in the candidate with the smaller number of popular votes becoming president in 1824, 1876, 1888, 2000 and 2016.After doing this research, my magical thinking parts realize we will not have enough “faithless electors” to make Hillary our president.
My practical parts are going to contact my senators and Congresswoman and ask why we do not offer a split-vote option regarding electoral votes. There is so much more to learn.