Instead, presidential elections use the Electoral College. Representatives chooses the president and the Senate chooses the vice president. Any person who meets these requirements can declare his or her candidacy for. When voters go to the polls in a Presidential election, they actually are voting for the electors meet in the state capital and cast two ballots—one for Vice President and . for months to devise a way to select the President and Vice President. The Presidential Election is on Tuesday, November 3, the electors, the meeting of the electors where they vote for President and Vice President, You help choose your state's electors when you vote for President because when you .
This method has been used in Maine since and in Nebraska since In most states, voters choose a slate of electors, and only a few states list on the ballot the names of proposed electors.
In some states, if a voter wants to write in a candidate for president, the voter is also required to write in the names of proposed electors. After the election, each state prepares seven Certificates of Ascertainment, each listing the candidates for president and vice president, their pledged electors, and the total votes each candidacy received.
The Certificates of Ascertainment are mandated to carry the State Seal, and the signature of the Governor in the case of the District of Columbia, the Certificate is signed by the Mayor of the District of Columbia. Hayes and William A. Electors meet in their respective state capitals electors for the District of Columbia meet within the District on the Monday after the second Wednesday in December, at which time they cast their electoral votes on separate ballots for president and vice president.
The meeting is opened by the election certification official — often that state's secretary of state or equivalent — who reads the Certificate of Ascertainment. This document sets forth who was chosen to cast the electoral votes.
The attendance of the electors is taken and any vacancies are noted in writing. The next step is the selection of a president or chairman of the meeting, sometimes also with a vice chairman.
The electors sometimes choose a secretary, often not himself an elector, to take the minutes of the meeting. In many states, political officials give short speeches at this point in the proceedings.
When the time for balloting arrives, the electors choose one or two people to act as tellers. Some states provide for the placing in nomination of a candidate to receive the electoral votes the candidate for president of the political party of the electors. Each elector submits a written ballot with the name of a candidate for president.
In New Jerseythe electors cast ballots by checking the name of the candidate on a pre-printed card; in North Carolinathe electors write the name of the candidate on a blank card. The tellers count the ballots and announce the result. The next step is the casting of the vote for vice president, which follows a similar pattern. Each state's electors must complete six Certificates of Vote. Each Certificate of Vote must be signed by all of the electors and a Certificate of Ascertainment must be attached to each of the Certificates of Vote.
Each Certificate of Vote must include the names of those who received an electoral vote for either the office of president or of vice president. The electors certify the Certificates of Vote and copies of the Certificates are then sent in the following fashion: A staff member of the President of the Senate collects the Certificates of Vote as they arrive and prepares them for the joint session of the Congress.
The Certificates are arranged — unopened — in alphabetical order and placed in two special mahogany boxes. Alabama through Missouri including the District of Columbia are placed in one box and Montana through Wyoming are placed in the other box. Faithless elector An elector may vote for whomever he or she wishes for each office provided that at least one of their votes president or vice president is for a person who is not a resident of the same state as themselves.
Twenty-nine states plus the District of Columbia have passed laws to punish faithless electors, although none have ever been enforced.
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Many constitutional scholars claim that state restrictions would be struck down if challenged based on Article II and the Twelfth Amendment.
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Some states, however, do have laws requiring that state's electors to vote for the candidate to whom they are pledged. Electors who break their pledge are called " faithless electors. Over the course of 58 presidential elections sinceonly 0. As stated in the ruling, electors are acting as a functionary of the state, not the federal government. Therefore, states have the right to govern the process of choosing electors. The constitutionality of state laws punishing electors for actually casting a faithless vote, rather than refusing to pledge, has never been decided by the Supreme Court.
However, in his dissent in Ray v. Blair, Justice Robert Jackson wrote: Faithless electors have never changed the outcome of any presidential election.
Contingent election The Twelfth Amendment mandates Congress assemble in joint session to count the electoral votes and declare the winners of the election.
The vice president and the Speaker of the House sit at the podium, with the vice president in the seat of the Speaker of the House. Senate pages bring in the two mahogany boxes containing each state's certified vote and place them on tables in front of the senators and representatives.
Each house appoints two tellers to count the vote normally one member of each political party. Relevant portions of the Certificate of Vote are read for each state, in alphabetical order. Members of Congress can object to any state's vote count, provided objection is presented in writing and is signed by at least one member of each house of Congress.
An objection supported by at least one senator and one representative will be followed by the suspension of the joint session and by separate debates and votes in each House of Congress; after both Houses deliberate on the objection, the joint session is resumed. A state's certificate of vote can be rejected only if both Houses of Congress vote to accept the objection. In that case, the votes from the State in question are simply ignored.
The votes of Arkansas and Louisiana were rejected in the presidential election of For over years, the states have universally required that electors be chosen by the voters. Anyone may serve as an elector, except Members of Congress and persons holding offices of "Trust or Profit" under the Constitution. Every presidential election year, political parties and independent candidacies nominate their national candidates for President and Vice President.
In each state where they are entitled to be on the ballot, they also nominate a group a "slate" or "ticket" of candidates for the office of elector that is equal in number to the electoral votes to which the state is entitled. On election day, Tuesday after the first Monday in November November 3 inwhen voters cast a single vote for their preferred candidates, they are actually voting for the slate of electors in their state pledged to those candidates.
In 48 states and the District of Columbia, the entire slate of electors winning the most popular votes in the state is elected, a practice known as "winner-take-all" or "the general ticket" system.
Maine and Nebraska use an alternative method, the "district system," which awards two electors to the popular vote winners statewide, and one to the popular vote winners in each congressional district.
Electors assemble in their respective states on the Monday after the second Wednesday in December December 14 in They are expected, but not constitutionally bound, to vote for the candidates they represent. The electors cast separate ballots for President and Vice President, after which the electoral college ceases to exist until the next presidential election.
State electoral vote results are reported to Congress and other designated authorities; they are then counted and declared at a joint session of Congress held on January 6 of the year after the election; Congress may, however, change this date by joint resolution. A majority of electoral votes currently of is required to win, but the results submitted by any state are open to challenge at the joint session, as provided by law. Past proposals for change by constitutional amendment have included various reform options and direct popular election, which would eliminate the electoral college system, but no substantive action on this issue has been taken in Congress for more than 20 years.
At present, however, a non-governmental organization, the National Popular Vote NPV campaign, proposes to reform the electoral college by action taken at the state level through an interstate compact; 10 states and the District of Columbia have approved the NPV compact to date. For further information on contemporary proposals to reform or eliminate the electoral college, please consult CRS Report R, Electoral College Reform: Direct Election of the President by Interstate Compact.
These officials are known as electors, and the institution is referred to collectively as the electoral college. Article II, Section 1 of the Constitutionas modified by the Twelfth Amendmentprovides the constitutional framework for the process, which, together with an array of subsequent federal and state laws and political party practices, comprises the electoral college system as it exists today.
It has been criticized by some as an undemocratic anachronism, but praised by others as a pillar of political stability and American federalism. This report focuses on the institutions and procedures associated with the contemporary electoral college system. It opens by noting four rarely occurring electoral college eventualities that took place in connection with the presidential election.
These included the election of a President and Vice President who received fewer popular votes than their major opponents; the actions of seven "faithless electors," who voted for candidates other than those to whom they were pledged; the split allocation of electoral votes in Maine, which uses the district system to choose its electors; and challenges to electoral votes in the joint session of Congress at which they are counted.
The report also examines the constitutional origins of the electoral college system and identifies the additional components and processes that are the product of federal and state law, party requirements, and political tradition, explaining their role in presidential elections. It provides a timeline for operation of the electoral college system for the presidential election, a brief examination of alternative reform measures, including constitutional amendment proposals and non-governmental initiatives, such as the National Popular Vote initiative 1 NPVand closes with concluding observations on the state of the electoral college system and prospects for change.
The Electoral College and the Presidential Election The presidential election will be recorded as the first in modern history in which four electoral college eventualities that have occurred separately in the past occurred during the same election cycle.
The Electoral and Popular Votes: Different Results The President and Vice President were elected with a majority of electoral votes, but fewer popular votes than their major party opponents. This election result is sometimes referred to, particularly by proponents of electoral college reform, as a "wrong winner" election or an "electoral college misfire.
Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution and its Twelfth Amendment require a majority of electoral votes to elect the President and Vice President, but they contain no reference at all to popular votes.
Faithless Electors Seven electors—five Democrats and two Republicans—cast votes for candidates other than those to whom they were pledged. Maine Splits Its Electoral Vote For the first time since it adopted the "district system" to award electors, the electoral vote in Maine was split between the two major party tickets—Republican nominees Trump and Pence received one vote for the district they carried and Democratic nominees Clinton and Kaine received three, one for the district they won and two at-large electors for winning the statewide popular vote.
Code, which includes procedures for the counting of electoral votes in Congress, provides for objections to state certificates of electoral votes at the joint session of Congress at which electoral votes are counted. Several Members of the House of Representatives raised objections to electoral votes at the January 6,joint session of Congress at which the votes were counted.
These objections were not considered, however, because they did not meet the legal requirements, which include signatures from at least one Senator and one Representative. Post Election Developments In addition to these eventualities, the Gallup Organization measured a change in public support for the electoral college system—versus direct popular election—immediately following the presidential election. None of these alternatives, however, proved satisfactory to the convention delegates.
Late in the convention, the matter was referred to the Committee of Eleven on Postponed Matters, which devised the electoral college system in its original form.
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As devised by the committee, the electoral college met several standards. It sought to reconcile and balance differing state and federal interests; give the state legislatures the authority to provide their preferred means of choosing the electors, including by popular vote, selection by the legislature itself, or any other method; by providing the "constant two" "senatorial" or at-large electors, afford the "smaller" states some additional leverage, so the election process would not be totally dominated by the more populous states; preserve the presidency as independent of Congress for election and reelection; and generally insulate the election process from political manipulation.
In the final analysis, the electoral college method of electing the President and Vice President was perhaps the best deal the delegates felt they could get—seemingly the only one on which a consensus could be formed—and one of many compromises that contributed to the convention's success.
Alexander Hamilton expressed the delegates' satisfaction with the electoral college method, and perhaps reflected their relief at reaching an acceptable solution, when he wrote this of the electoral college in The Federalist: The mode of appointment of the Chief Magistrate of the United States is almost the only part of the system, of any consequence, which has escaped without severe censure, or which has received the slightest mark of approbation from its opponents I venture somewhat further, and hesitate not to affirm that if the manner of it be not perfect, it is at least excellent.
It united in an eminent degree all the advantages the union of which was to be wished for. Qualifications for the office were broad: This was intended to counter what the framers feared would be a provincial insularity once George Washington, the indispensable figure who was universally expected to be the first President, had left the political scene.
By requiring one of the candidates to be from somewhere else, the convention delegates hoped to prod the electors to look beyond the borders of their own state or region in search of national candidates qualified and fit to serve as President. A number of votes equal to a majority of the whole number of electors was necessary to elect. This requirement was intended to insure that the winning candidate enjoyed broad support, while election by the House of Representatives was provided as a default method in the event of electoral college deadlock.
Finally, Congress was empowered to set nationwide dates for choice and meeting of electors. Under this system, each elector cast two votes for two different candidates for the office of President, but no votes for Vice President. The candidate who received the most electoral votes was elected, provided he received a number of votes equal to a majority of the whole number of electors—not a majority of electoral votes.
Nobody actually ran for Vice President—the runner-up in the presidential contest was elected to the second office. This system, which was intended to bring the two best qualified candidates to office, never anticipated the early growth of political parties and factions, each of which offered a joint ticket of two candidates—one for President and one for Vice President. By the third election, inthe nascent political parties of the day, Federalists and anti-Federalists also known as Jeffersonians or Republicans17 each offered a joint ticket.
Under the original arrangement, the only way to make the system work was for all of the party's electors to cast one of their two votes for the recognized presidential candidate, and all but one of the electors cast their second votes for the vice presidential candidate.
One elector would be instructed to withhold his second vote for the designated vice presidential candidate, so that the two candidates would not tie the vote and throw the election to the House.
This cumbersome system broke down almost immediately, inwhen a Republican elector failed to withhold his second vote from the acknowledged vice presidential candidate. This led to a tie between presidential candidate Thomas Jefferson and his running mate, Aaron Burr, leaving the election to be decided in the House of Representatives.
The constitutional crisis resulting from the election of led to the Twelfth Amendment, which was proposed by Congress and speedily ratified by the states, as noted later in this report. As the republic evolved, so did the electoral college system; by the late 19th century the following range of constitutional requirements, federal and state legal provisions, and political party practices that make up the contemporary system were in place.
Who Are the Electors? In effect, this language bars not only Members of the two houses of Congress, but any person who is an employee of the United States government: Justices, judges, and staff of the U. Government, that is, "civil servants," and U. While they may be well-known persons in their states, electors generally receive little recognition as such. In most states, the names of individual elector-candidates do not appear anywhere on the ballot; instead only those of the presidential and vice presidential candidates of the parties or other groups that nominated the elector-candidates appear.
In some states, the presidential and vice-presidential nominees' names are preceded on the ballot by the words "electors for. Diverse State Procedures The Constitution and federal law are silent on nomination procedures for elector-candidates, so the process of nominating elector-candidates is another of the aspects of this system left to state and political party preferences. Most states prescribe one of two methods: The remaining states use a variety of methods; for instance, some make no provision for nomination of elector-candidates, leaving the decision to party authorities.
Others provide for nomination by the governor on recommendation of party committeesby primary election, and by the party's presidential nominee.
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Provisions governing new and minor political parties, as well as independent candidacies, are generally prescribed in state law, and are even more widely varied. The Constitution, as noted previously, gives each state a number of electors equal to the combined total of its Senate membership 2 for each state and House of Representatives delegation currently ranging from 1 to 53, depending on population.
The total number of electoral votes per state, based on the most recent census, ranges from 3, for seven states and the District of Columbia, to 55 for California, the most populous state. Figure A-1 and Table A-1 in the appendix to this report provide current electoral vote allocations by state and the District of Columbia for the elections of, and These totals are adjusted following each decennial census in a process called reapportionment, which reallocates the number of Members of the House of Representatives to reflect changing rates of population growth or decline among the states.
As noted previously, the current allocation among the states is in effect for the presidential elections of, and ; electoral votes will next be reallocated following the census, an alignment that will be in effect for the and elections.
How Are the Electors Chosen? As also noted previously, the Constitution specifically grants the right to decide how electors will be chosen—as opposed to being nominated—to the legislatures of the several states: Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress.
This practice changed rapidly, however, as "the rise of democratic sentiment in the early nineteenth century" 26 led to the steady expansion of voting rights to include all white males 21 years of age or older. Bychoice of presidential electors had changed from the legislatures to the voters in every state but one, and since the voters have chosen electors in all states, a tradition that has become a permanent feature of the electoral college system.
During the political controversy connected with that year's presidential election in Florida, it was suggested that the state's legislature might step in to appoint electors if local election authorities and state courts were unable to determine who had won its 25 electoral votes by the deadline required by federal law this so-called "Safe Harbor" provision is examined later in this report.
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Although many commentators asserted that a return to selection of electors by the state legislature would be an unacceptable retreat from democratic practices, no serious arguments were raised against the constitutional right of the Florida legislature to do so. Ratifying the Voters' Choice Presidential electors in contemporary elections are expected, and, in many cases pledged, to vote for the candidates of the party that nominated them. While there is considerable evidence that the founders intended that they would be independent, weighing the merits of competing presidential candidates, the electors have been regarded as agents of the public will since the first decade under the Constitution.
Disregarding the Voters' Choice Notwithstanding the tradition that electors are bound to vote for the candidates of the party that nominated them, individual electors have sometimes broken their commitment, voting for a different candidate or for candidates other than those to whom they were pledged; they are known as "faithless" or "unfaithful" electors.
United States Electoral College
Although 24 states seek to prohibit faithless electors by a variety of methods, including pledges and the threat of fines or criminal action, 31 most constitutional scholars believe that once electors have been chosen, they remain constitutionally free agents, able to vote for any candidate who meets the requirements for President and Vice President.
Faithless Electors—Ten Attempted, Seven Successful Following the presidential election, 10 electors attempted to cast ballots for candidates other than those to whom they were pledged; seven succeeded. Three Clinton-Kaine electors—from Colorado, Maine, and Minnesota—attempted to vote for other candidates, but they were replaced by alternates who cast their ballots as electors according to the voters' preference. These included electors from three states: The fines were subsequently upheld by a state administrative law judge.
That is, voters cast a single vote for electors pledged to the joint ticket of the presidential and vice presidential nominees of the party they represent. This practice conforms to the Constitution, which provides for only one set of electors, although the electors vote separately for President and Vice President. This practice eliminates the possibility that voters could pick and choose among electors from different parties. The joint ticket also ensures that the President and Vice President will represent the same party.
Most states do not print the names of individual elector-candidates on the general election ballot. The most common practice is that only the names of the presidential and vice presidential nominees and their party identification appear on the ballot, in some cases preceded by the phrase "Electors for".
Some states further specify in law that a vote for these candidates is a vote for the elector-candidates of their party or political group. How the States Award Their Electoral Votes While the Constitution is silent on the exact procedure for awarding each state's electoral votes, 48 states and the District of Columbia currently use the "general ticket" or "winner-take-all" system, while Maine and Nebraska use the "district" system.
The General Ticket System Under the general ticket system, also referred to as the winner-take-all system, each political party or independent candidacy that is eligible to be placed on the ballot nominates a group also known as "ticket" or "slate" of candidates for the office of elector.
The number of candidates for the office of elector nominated by each party on its ticket equals the state's total number of electors. As noted previously, the voters then cast a single vote for the presidential and vice presidential candidates of their choice; when they do, they actually cast a vote for the entire ticket of electors pledged to the party and candidates of their choice.
The general ticket system has been favored since the 19th century, because it awards all the state's electors to one party's nominees, thus tending to magnify the winning candidates' victory margin within states and across the nation. Historically, it has usually produced an electoral college majority for the winners greater than the percentage of their popular vote margin of victory. This recurring development is sometimes referred to as a "multiplier effect. No longer would it be necessary as under the district system to share the state's electoral votes with the opposing party.
By the general ticket system, the ruling party could deliver an absolutely solid electoral vote majority to its national candidates. In that election, Democratic nominees John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B.
Nixon and Henry C. Lodge, a popular vote victory margin of 0. This margin, however, was expanded in the electoral college by the effect of the general ticket system multiplier. The Democratic nominees thus gained electoral votes,