Your Vote Does Matter

Your Vote Does Matter

Your Vote Does Matter

Voting is one of our most precious American rights, but yet many of us do not understand the process by which our President, the leader of the free world, is selected. Many of the Founding Fathers were well schooled in ancient history and its lessons. So, it is no accident that the structure of the Electoral College can be traced to the Centurial Assembly system of the Roman Republic. Under that system, the adult male citizens of Rome were divided, according to their wealth, into groups of 100 (called Centuries). Each group of 100 was entitled to cast only one vote either in favor or against proposals submitted to them by the Roman Senate. In the Electoral College system, the States serve as the Centurial groups (though they are not, of course, based on wealth), and the number of votes per State is determined by the size of each State's Congressional delegation. The Electoral College was created for two reasons. The first purpose was to create a buffer between population and the selection of a President. The second as part of the structure of the government that gave extra power to the smaller states. Direct election was rejected not because the Framers of the Constitution doubted public intelligence, but rather because they feared that without sufficient information about candidates from outside their State, people would naturally vote for a "favorite son" from their own State or region.  Many of the founders believed that the electors would be able to insure that only a qualified person becomes President. They believed that with the Electoral College no one would be able to manipulate the citizenry. It would act as check on an electorate that might be duped. The founders also believed that the Electoral College had the advantage of being a group that met only once and thus could not be manipulated over time by foreign governments or others. The Electoral College consists of 538 electors. A majority of 270 electoral votes is required to elect the President. Each state’s entitled allotment of electors equals the number of members in its Congressional delegation: one for each member in the House of Representatives plus two for your Senators. Under the 23rd Amendment of the Constitution, the District of Columbia is allocated three electors and treated like a state for purposes of the Electoral College. The process for selecting Electors varies throughout the United States. Generally, the political parties nominate Electors. On Election Day, the voters in each State choose the Electors by casting votes for the presidential candidate of their choice. The winning candidate in each State—except in Nebraska and Maine, is awarded all of the State’s Electors. In Nebraska and Maine, the state winner receives two Electors and the winner of each congressional district receives one Elector. This system permits the Electors from Nebraska and Maine to be awarded to more than one candidate. There is no Constitutional provision or Federal law that requires Electors to vote according to the results of the popular vote in their States. Some States (not Pennsylvania), however, require Electors to cast their votes according to the popular vote. These pledges fall into two categories—Electors bound by State law and those bound by pledges to political parties. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that the Constitution does not require that Electors be completely free to act as they choose and therefore, political parties may extract pledges from electors to vote for the parties’ nominees. Some State laws provide that so-called "faithless Electors"; may be subject to fines or may be disqualified for casting an invalid vote and be replaced by a substitute elector. The Supreme Court has not specifically ruled on the question of whether pledges and penalties for failure to vote as pledged may be enforced under the Constitution. No Elector has ever been prosecuted for failing to vote as pledged. Since the founding of the Electoral College, there have been 156 faithless Electors.  Seventy-one of these votes were changed because the original candidate died before the day on which the Electoral College cast their votes.  Three of the votes were not cast at all. These three Electors chose to abstain from casting their Electoral vote for any candidate.  The other 82 Electoral votes were changed on the personal initiative of the Elector. Sometimes Electors changed their votes in large groups, such as when 23 Virginia Electors acted together in 1836. Many times, these Electors stood alone in their decision. Four times in our Nation's history the President won the election despite not having the popular vote. In 1824, John Quincy Adams was elected president despite not winning either the popular vote or the electoral vote. Andrew Jackson was the winner in both categories. Jackson received 38,000 more popular votes than Adams, and beat him in the electoral vote 99 to 84. Despite his victories, Jackson didn’t reach the majority 131 votes needed in the Electoral College to be declared president. In fact, neither candidate did. The decision went to the House of Representatives, which voted Adams into the White House. In 1876, Rutherford B. Hayes won the election (by a margin of one electoral vote), but he lost the popular vote by more than 250,000 ballots to Samuel J. Tilden. In 1888, Benjamin Harrison received 233 electoral votes to Grover Cleveland’s 168, winning the presidency. But Harrison lost the popular vote by more than 90,000 votes. In 2000, George W. Bush was declared the winner of the general election and became the 43rd president, but he didn’t win the popular vote either. Al Gore holds that distinction, garnering about 540,000 more votes than Bush. However, Bush won the electoral vote, 271 to 266. Throughout our history as a nation however, more than 99 percent of Electors have voted as pledged. Please go out and vote.  Your vote does matter!