The Electoral College (and more)
From The History Files
Election season is usually the time that we brush up on what the electoral college is and now more than ever, I believe that refresher course is needed.
America’s form of government and how it works is built upon the the Constitution of the United States of America. The Constitution determines how our government is set up, run and changed as needed.
The Constitution is not a political document, in fact it is the compass for politics, (if there must be politics). It is the guiding force of our nation, providing structure, certainty, safety and direction. It tells us how to do what needs to be done.
All Federal employees, officers, workers, and many State as well, when assuming their jobs, take an oath of office, “to uphold the Constitution of the United States”. The Constitution is our most prized and protected document, for within it we find our foundations.
In Article Two of our Constitution we find our guidelines for “The Presidency”. The four sections of that Article lay out for America, how she is to select the President of the United States. All the details are there.
In Article 2, sections 2,3, and 4 we read about the “Electors”. This is the collection of people that we, today call “The Electoral College”. I will explain more, in a minute.
Let me first say a word about why the framers designed it that way they did to choose our President.
You’ll remember, our original 13 colonies were a collection of small and big states.
From the very beginning of our nation, there has always been heated discussions between the large and small states. Both accuse the other of not understanding their state’s needs or need for power.
As early as 1787, at the Constitutional Convention, the large state of Virginia was fighting with the small state of New Jersey about representation.
Virginia believed their governmental representation should be based on population – because they were big, had a large population, they would have more status and power.
New Jersey believed that each state should have equal representation in their government and therefore equal power. (Just cuz they were small didn’t mean that they didn’t matter, right?)
They were at a stalemate and moving no where fast.
The founding fathers realized that both the big and small states must be represented in our United States, in our government and especially in our elections.
What came of it was what they called, “The Great Compromise”. One in which the states would be represented by population in the House of Representatives (the Lower House) and the states would also be represented equally in the Senate (the Upper House).
This is what has worked for 233 years, and what we call Congress, The Legislative Branch of our government.
Now, this is important and affects our presidential elections too.
Why? Because the founders had no intention of having the popular vote determine the outcome of the presidential election. They knew the large states could easily overpower the smaller states by the shear size of their voting blocks.
Therefore, in writing the Constitution they fleshed out a plan based on “electors”.
How does it work?
Rather than have a candidate win only large states, and thus not truly represent ALL Americans, the candidate would need to earn the electors from many states, thus representing a cross-section of Americans.
The popular vote of a state would determine who would receive those valued electors.
Each state would then hold their national election and it’s outcome would determine how their electors would be assigned.
How many electors does each state get?
They receive the number equal to their representatives in Congress. For example, I live in California, and CA has 55 electors – the same number that represent us in Washington DC.
The electors are people, who are selected to attend a meeting, after the general election; at which time they will cast their assigned vote, based on their states popular vote (except Maine and Nebraska) for President and Vice President. This process is called “The Electoral College”.
What this provides for is the representation of all states in our election. Candidates must work to relate to many states and their people’s needs, many differing ideas and ways. The majority, therefore represents the majority of electoral votes and not the majority of popular votes. Whoever receives 270 electoral votes, receives the majority and thereby represents a broad swath of American ideals.
This is how the Founders designed our system to work. It is not perfect, but for over 200 years it has worked, even in turbulent elections (1800, 1824, 1836, 1872, 1876, 1888, and 2000).
Now here’s the deal, our 2020 electoral college is scheduled to meet on Monday, December 14, at which time, the electors should be casting their votes.
However, because the state legislatures must certify their elections prior to the electors voting, and because that is currently NOT the case in every state, there is the possibility that the December 14 date may be affected.
Additionally, the idea of “safe harbor” – or that safe zone for disputed election results is looming today.
To be clear though, the “safe harbor” ruling says that, “if an election dispute is not resolved by the State by the safe harbor deadline, Congress has discretion over the disposition over the State’s electoral votes.” THAT is a wide open statement in my humble opinion.
Wait, what… whadoyamean?
What I mean is this – the Constitution of the United States has provided direction and guidance for us through very sketchy times, for a very long time. It is the law of the land, and it is working.
However, still to play out are the disputes and contestations – they actually have more time to evolve and will probably be sorted out by some mix of The Supreme Court and Congress. (again, in my opinion)
To close, I am a Constitutionalist, I dearly believe we need it (AND the Electoral College) to be the America we love. I also believe our current election is far from over. There are still unaddressed and contested outliers yet to be adjudicated.
I pray that all of my readers find themselves on the side of the Constitution, regardless of what side you may be on politically.
My continued prayer is God, please Bless America.
Cheers to you.