Mapping Elector Binding

The states approaches to connecting voting to electing, mapped.
Here is a map.

Although this story now seems to have passed, there was a suggestion that Donald Trump would withdraw from the election leaving Mike Pence as the likely Republican nominee. There are clearly substantial issues with this as voting as already begun. The retort to considerations of the substantial logistical and political issues with this move was that voters were merely selecting electors. In the last instance this is true, they are selecting electors, but the processes by which individual states select and manage these electors are not uniform. The second line argument here is that despite differences in state law, laws restricting faithless electors (those choosing not to honor their promises or state laws) would go unenforced. Some states (Michigan, Utah, and Minnesota) replace the ballots of faithless electors. South Carolina allows a judge to release an elector from their pledge. The citizens of these states have clearly spent time building these structures. Still some people seem to think that they should be easily disregarded.

This is a deeply troubling argument. Legitimacy is at a premium. In short, if Trump were to leave the top of the ticket it would require a rapid succession of events in a number of states to insure the integrity of the process. States and parties have a great deal of leeway to make decisions, these decisions alone would not cause a Constitutional crisis, but the failure to make them very well could.

So no, the ultra-cynical answer that no one cares and the system will roll on doesn’t work for me.

Finding information on the actual schemes that relate voters to electors is difficult. My dataset here comes from a few blog posts, a poorly maintained educational site, and other websites. Some of these resources have a rich legacy as they were created during the Bush-Gore debacle. This is a dusty shelf of the library. If you have information that can help or are checking state statutes (as I checked Ohio), let me know and I will update the data. The most important thing written here is Cherie Braden’s post on the topic, read it.

The following maps code for state, number of electoral votes, and type of binding scheme.

First, Nebraska and Maine are in a bin titled alternative as they allocate electors on the basis of the Congressional districts. I did not check the status of these electors. This combination will likely net plus one votes for either side, depending on the people of Omaha.

Second, unbound states. These are the states where the electors are party loyalists and are elected via the candidate positions on the ballot. 20 States, 246 electoral votes here. Given current polling, Clinton will likely win 139 of these votes, Trump 107.

Third, party bound states. Example: Ohio, where the electors are pledged to vote for the party of the person who wins the most votes via the Presidential ballot. This is the most common type of binding scheme. 204 votes are in this bucket, Clinton is likely to take 155 of these votes, Trump 49. This bucket includes California, North Carolina, Virginia, and Washington. This bucket is benign in this scenario as the electors are tied to the party, not the candidate.

Fourth, electors tied to candidates. There is diversity of binding schemes, from Alabama’s which ties the electors to the candidate from the national convention, to Colorado’s which ties the electors to the winner of the states popular vote. Every one of these laws is a state law, with a state legal system, and an interpretation. Depending on these factors, the state may need to reprint ballots or even overhaul the laws on an emergency basis to deal with a top of ticket change. By my count, this effects 79 electors. Given current polling, Clinton will win this group, 49–30. This group includes: Montana, Wyoming, Delaware, Vermont, Nevada, Mississippi, Connecticut, Colorado, Alabama, South Carolina, Maryland, and Massachusetts. Aside from Nevada and Colorado, these are not exactly hotly contested states. And, at least given current polls, it is likely that the allocation of electors from Alabama would be more of a historical curiosity than a decision point. If something does happen at the top of the ticket (although it seems highly unlikely) these states will need to take action promptly.

Two maps of this data: one produced in Tableau another with R. No real reason for this except my love of making graphics. Enjoy.