by Kevin Stoda
"Trump Says Electoral College 'Genius' After Calling It 'Disaster'" was the headline on ABC a few days ago. Everyone is still a bit confused about what is possible with America's archaeic electoral college system.
FactCheck.Org posed the important question recently:
Q: Can the Electoral College elect Hillary Clinton on Dec. 19 [, 2016]?
A: Yes, it may be constitutionally possible; but no, it will not happen, according to election experts.
The author, Robert Farley, of that particular FactCheck piece noted: "A Change.org petition, now signed by more than 4.3 million people, encourages members of the Electoral College to cast their votes for Hillary Clinton when the college meets on Dec. 19. The petition argues that Donald Trump is "unfit to serve" and that 'Secretary Clinton WON THE POPULAR VOTE and should be President.'"
Farley continued: "'If they all vote the way their states voted, Donald Trump will win,' the petition states. 'However, they can vote for Hillary Clinton if they choose. Even in states where that is not allowed, their vote would still be counted, they would simply pay a small fine -- which we can be sure Clinton supporters will be glad to pay! We are calling on the Electors to ignore their states' votes and cast their ballots for Secretary Clinton.'"
The American constitution set up the electoral college over 225 years ago. In it, the election of the president, the head of the executive branch is defined and clarified. When Americans vote for the president under the constitution they do not actually vote for the president directly but simply for an elector. The elector is supposed to both represent the will of the people of the state while avoiding the worst tendencies of mobocracy--what the founders of the Repulblic seem to fear more than slave rebellions and corruption in government or financial institutions.
With the election of the most hated candidate in American memory, i.e. Dondald Trump, by about 45% of American voters in the various state populations across the USA this past 8th of November, for only the third or fourth time in the last two-hundred-plus years a group of electors in the Electoral College System is seriously being called to think through the will of the people, the needs of the land today, and the needs of future generations when electing the president.
Too often, the job of an elector has been fairly automatic. It can no longer be if the Electoral y College system is to stay in existance. The college is meant to be a break on the entire system , i.e. to help avoid the worst and most hateful tendencies in the Republican system, like in the recent Brexit vote in the UK,
What follows in the next sections of this writing is a fairly complete history of how electors have acted since the constitution went into effect in the 1780s. I encourage you to read through this narration. Then I suggest you talk to your state's elector about the options.
ree Thinking electors have existed, but they have been few in number. There have been one in each election in the years 1948, 1956, 1960, 1968, 1972, 1976, 1988, and 2000. And they have never influenced the outcome of the presidential election.
However, these free thinkers in the Electoral College did influence elections starting from 1792 onward. Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr received votes for president in the 1792 electoral college system. They received 5 votes total while George Clinton received a whopping 50 votes in that years electoral college. (In 1792, he [Clinton] was chosen by the nascent Jeffersonian Republican party as their candidate for vice president. While the Republicans joined in the general acclamation of Washington for a second term as president, they objected to the allegedly "monarchical" attitude of Vice President John Adams. Under the system then in place, votes for Vice President were not differentiated from votes for President.) Some of these were favorite son or favorite neighbor votes. that is, they had not received significant vote at the local levels or state levels to actually have received a proportional representation of any sort.
In 1796, John Adams barely won the electoral infighting with 71-68 victory of Jefferson. Meanwhile, other candidates got various votes during the electoral college events of that election: Thomas Pinckney (59), Aaron Burr (30), Samuel Adams (15), O. Ellsworth (11), George Clinton (7), John Jay (5), James Iredell (3), S. Johnston (2), George Washington (2), John Henry (2), Charles C. Pinckney (1) . Some of these were favorite son or favorite neighbor votes votes.
In 1800, America's first electoral tie occurred when both Aaron Burr and Thomas Jefferson received 73 votes in the Electoral College's first vote. Meanwhile, John Adams received 65, Charles C. Pinckney 64, John Jay (1). Again, some of these were favorite son or favorite neighbor votes votes.
Prior to ratification of the 12th Amendment, votes for President and Vice President were not listed on separate ballots. Although John Adams ran as Jefferson's main opponent in the general election, running-mates Jefferson and Burr received the same number of electoral votes. The election was decided in the House of Representatives, with 10 State delegations voting for Jefferson, 4 voting for Burr and 2 making no choice.
Despite the institution of the 12th amendment, free thinkers continued to vote for favorite sons or their favorite politician or leader in subsequent elections: In 1808, again George Clinton (6) received votes in the Electoral College as electors from New York split their votes.