|A Joint Session of Congress Will Meet on January 6, 2017|
To Count The Electoral College For President and Vice President
The two major party candidates for the Presidential Elections of the United States of America have been chosen -- Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party, and Donald Trump for the Republican Party. The elections will be held on Tuesday, November 8 which is the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. This date has been mandated as election day for Presidential Electors according to the Constitution of the United States since 1845.
The United States does not elect its President by majority popular vote. It elects its President by majority of votes in something called the Electoral College. I am going to try to explain to my reader exactly what the the Electoral College is, why it exists, and why it gives certain states, most notably the State of Florida, my home state, such enormous power in modern times in determining who will be elected President. This article continues in a Questions and Answers format.
1. How does the United States of America determine who is President and Vice President?
The Constitution of the United States calls for an "Electoral College" composed of individual electors who are allocated to each state according to the number of seats they have in Congress to determine who is elected President and Vice President. It is a simple arrangement that is actually a clever compromise by the framers of the Constitution 230 years ago.
Some of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention wanted a direct vote for President. Others wanted State Legislatures or Governors to decide directly. A compromise was reached in the form of an electoral college. Each state was given the same number of electoral votes they had in Congress:
2. How big is the Electoral College?
The Electoral College currently has 538 seats.
100 seats for 100 Senators
435 seats for 435 member of the House of Representatives.
3 seats for the District of Columbia (Washington D.C.).
270 are required to win.
3. When does the Electoral College Meet?
December 19, 2016 on a Statewide basis.
The results will be read to a Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2017 by the outgoing President of the Senate (Vice President Joe Biden). The new President and Vice President will be inaugurated on January 20, 2017
4. How does each state determine who its electors will vote for?
Since 1824, by law and convention, the Presidential candidates who get the majority vote of a state carry all of that state's electors. Electors names do not appear on the ballot - instead, in small print, the wording "electors pledged to" appears above the candidate's name. The party of the candidate may appear below or near the candidate's name.
Exceptions at the current time include Nebraska and Maine which award electors by Congressional district, and stateside electors (the two Senate electors) by popular vote.
Theoretically, any state can decide to award its electors by Congressional district. Republicans in the Midwestern states in particular have threatened to do this but have not done so. The pros and cons of doing this would require an analytical treatise which is beyond the scope of this blog.
5. Are electors required to vote a certain way?
No. "Faithless" electors occur. The last reported one was in 2004 in Minnesota
6. So why do certain states have so much power?
The electoral college formula means that states vote as a block (again, with the exception of the small states of Nebraska and Maine). This gives the power to the large states. All that matters is that a candidate gets 270 electoral votes.
7. Is it possible for a candidate to win the popular vote and lose the electoral college?
Yes. It has happened several times. Al Gore got more votes than George Bush in 2000.
8. Could the electoral college end up in a tie?
Yes. It is possible for two candidates to get 270 votes each. The election would be up to the House of Representatives if that were to happen. It has never happened before.
9. Which large states are reliably Republican and which Democratic?
The largest "red" states the vote reliably Republican are Texas with 38 electoral votes, and Georgia with 16 electoral votes.
The largest "blue states which reliably vote Democratic are California with 55 electoral votes, New York with 29 electoral votes,Illinois with 20 electoral votes, and Michigan with 16 electoral votes.
Pennsylvania with 20 electoral votes was considered a reliable "blue" Democratic state but is considered a swing state this year.
|More than just Sunshine and Pastrami!|
9. Why is Florida so important?
Florida, with 29 electoral votes, is the biggest "swing" state. Florida has just the right mix of demographics to reflect the national average of voters in Presidential elections.
Ohio, with 18 electoral votes, is another "swing" state in Presidential elections.
It has been impossible for the Republican Party to win a Presidential election without the State of Florida since 1924. Al Gore would have been elected President in 2000 if it were not for the Florida recount being called off by the Supreme Court of the United States.
No Republican candidate has similarly won a Presidential election without carrying Ohio.
Most analysts feel that Donald Trump will need to carry both Florida and Ohio to win the Presidency.
10 Will the United States ever adopt a direct popular vote for President.
In my opinion, not for a very long time if at all. It will require a constitutional amendment which is very hard to do, and I cannot see a state like Florida willing to give up its power in Presidential elections that quickly.