Electoral College

It seems that some of the campaigns for the 2008 presidential election began before George W. Bush was sworn into office for a second term. We have been inundated for months with political double-speak, and many people will be glad when the election is over just so they can have some peace and quiet during prime-time television hours.

Another reason that we’re weary of the political process is because most of us do not understand the Constitutional mechanism for electing our chief executive. The place to start, of course, would be Article II of the Constitution, specifically Section 1, clause 2 which says:

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: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

The Electoral College was established by the founding fathers as a compromise between election of the president by Congress and election by popular vote. Note that state legislatures decide on the procedure, which means there are fifty ways to chose electors. The number of electors chosen is pretty straightforward. Using Texas as an example, the Lone Star state has 32 members in the House of Representatives, and 2 Senators. This means that Texas can select 34 electors, none of whom may hold elected office.

Each political party hosts a state convention early in the election year. At these events, each party nominates potential electors from among the party faithful. This year’s process was more contentious for Republicans as thousands of Ron Paul supporters fought entrenched bureacracies in an attempt to nominate electors who know the difference between Liberty and tyranny.

The next step in the process is the November “election”. Pretending for a moment that the results that will be reported actually represent the will of the people, one political party will claim more than 50% of the popular vote for their presidential candidate. That party’s nominees now become members of the electoral college. In spite of all the confetti and post-election “speachifying”, the popular vote does not determine who will be president for the next four years.

That only happens when 535 members of the Electoral College cast their official ballots a few days beforefore the presidential inauguration in January. To the best of my knowledge, the first time Americans saw members of the electoral college on television was after the 2000 election debacle in Florida. After agonizing weeks of people examining “hanging chad”, they finally showed Florida’s electors casting their ballots. Electors are not legally required to cast their votes based on popular vote results, so why bother with the charade of recounting them? (If electors were legally required to vote a certain way, there wouldn’t be a need for them. We would simply fake the electoral count the way we fake the popular vote results.)

The 2000 election was not the first time the electoral college was in the spotlight. Two hundred years earlier, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams – former friends, now bitter rivals - were challenging each other for the presidency. Aaron Burr and others were also running. Before the Twelfth Amendment changed things in 1804, electors would vote for two candidates, and the person with the second highest total would be vice-president. Jefferson and Burr tied for first place, both of them narrowly beating John Adams. This required a tie-breaking vote by Congress, and over the course of seven days, Congress voted thirty-six times before Jefferson earned the majority he needed.

The question on everyone’s lips is whether McCain or Obama will be “the lesser of two evils” in November. Many Americans will not be happy with either selection. Will there be no joy in Mudville next year? Certainly there must be a Constitutional loophole we can take advantage of.

Theoretically there is. The names of potential electors for each of the two major parties are supposed to be publicly available, although finding that information would require some serious investigative work. Assuming you could make a list of the people likely to cast ballots for each state, a letter writing campaign could presumably call upon them to vote their conscience instead of rubber stamping the person “annointed” by their party. It is conceivable that they could cast their ballots for the “Champion of the Constitution” – but this isn’t a Hollywood movie. The people chosen as electors are less likely to change their vote than a leopard will change his spots.

Given all the chicanery that goes on in the process, I am often asked why we don’t change the electoral process. The amendment process described in Article V would be the way to do that, however the question overlooks a much more serious problem: TREASON. Who cares HOW you elect a president when the people who have held that office since the beginning of the last century have been as rotten as two month old eggs?

We have no time to worry about arranging deck chairs on our political Titanic. Our country is sinking into tyranny, and fast! Once again we face a more fundamental problem: public ignorance and apathy. Your average man or woman on the street has only recently become aware that something is wrong with the economy. As the cost of gasoline creeps steadily towards $5 per gallon, and the food prices begins to skyrocket, Americans are finally pulling their heads out of.... the sand. If we refuse to get politically involved, we may soon be literally fighting for our lives.

As President Kennedy once said, “If you make peaceful revolution impossible, you make violent revolution inevitable”. At this stage, only time will tell if the freedom movement has enough momentum to change the system legislatively, or whether blood must once again be spilled to defend the cause of Liberty.

I’m afraid we won’t have too long to wait for the answer.




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