The Electoral College and the Ignominy of Trying to Cheat It.

"Of the 46,000 registered in both states, 68 percent are Democrats, 12 percent are Republicans and 16 percent didn't align themselves with a party, the newspaper reported on Sunday."

The excerpt is taken from an article found on Yahoo! News, "Thousands Registered to Vote in 2 States -- Report"

This is a Federal offense. Violators can be fined up to $10,000 per offense, and jailed for up to 5 years.

It's time for a review of how the Electoral College works.

Every state gets a number of Electors equal to the number of its U.S. Senators (always 2), plus the number of Representatives allocated by the state's population, and determined in the most recent Census. The political parties and/or independent candidates in each state submit a list of candidates to the state's chief election official. The candidates on this list are equal in number to the state's electoral vote.

Usually, the major political parties select these people in their State party conventions, or through appointment by each state's party leaders. Third parties and independent candidates merely designate their people. After their caucuses and primaries, and during their national conventions, the parties nominate their candidates for president and vice president. Third party/independent candidates have to follow different procedures, according to individual state laws.

So far, so good, right?

OK. After that, the candidates who have been nominated have their names submitted to each state's chief election official so that they will appear on the general election ballot of each state.

Every four years, on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November, every person (who chooses) to vote in their home state casts his or her ballot for the party slate of Electors representing their choice for president and vice president. (If you look, you'll see that general election ballots usually just read, "Electors For," instead of listing the individual electors.)

Now pay attention, because this is where it gets important, and this is where people who don't understand the Electoral College start frothing at the mouth, and demonstrate exactly who slept through high school civics classes.

The party slate who wins the most popular votes in the state becomes that state's Electors. (It has nothing to do with which candidate gets the most individual votes, and everything to do with the party that carries the state. Clear as mud?) So, whichever presidential ticket gets the most popular votes in a state wins all the Electors in that state. The exceptions to this are Maine and Nebraska, where two Electors are chosen by statewide popular vote, and then the remainder by popular vote in each Congressional district.

On the Monday following the second Wednesday of December, each state's electors meet in their respective state capitols and cast their electoral votes: one each for president and vice president. Electors are prevented from voting for favored sons of their home state due to the fact that one of their votes must be for someone from outside the state. (This is seldom a problem anymore.)

Following this, the votes are sealed and sent to the President of the Senate, who reads the votes aloud before both houses of Congress on January 6th. The presidential candidate with the most electoral votes (one over half the total) is declared president, with the same process applying to the candidate for vice president. If no one takes the absolute majority of electoral votes for president, then the U.S. House of Representatives selects the president from the top three contenders. Each state casts only one vote, meaning that the Representatives from each state must come to agreement, and an absolute majority of states is required for that man to be elected. Similarly, the vice president is selected by the Senate from among the top two contenders.

Once the president and vice president are elected, they are sworn into office on January 20th.

Registering to vote in two states is illegal. You are one person. You get one vote. The government doesn't care how many addresses you have.

Here's a nice overview of the rules:

Please be aware of the following prohibited acts of fraud and misrepresentation:
You may not make any false statement of claim that you are a citizen of the United States in order to register or vote in any federal, state or local election.
You must not vote more than once in any election that includes a federal candidate (please not that this does not include voting a replacement ballot after a spoiled ballot was invalidated).
You must not procure or submit materially false, fraudulent or fictitious voter registration applications in any election that includes a federal candidate.
You must not submit false information as to name, address, or period of residence in a voting district for the purpose of establishing voter eligibility to register or vote in any election that includes a federal candidate.
You must not procure, cast or tabulate materially false, fraudulent or fictitious ballots in any election that includes a federal candidate.
You must not pay, offer to pay or accept payment for voting, registering to vote, withholding a vote, or voting for or against any candidate in any election that includes a federal candidate.

The FEC has more.

I know this is going to be hard for the asshelmets who want to subvert my nation's democratic process, but like them or not, these rules are there for a reason, and have been established as the fairest possible way to make the election process work in a nation of this size. They protect everyone.

You see, the Electoral College was founded with an eye to the difficult question of how to elect a president in a nation that was then comprised of 13 large and small states, each concerned about their own rights and powers, and suspicious of a central national government. (For more information on the framing of the Constitution, and the bitter brangles that ensued throughout the muggy summer of 1787, see my 3 posts here, here, and here.)

What's more, the population was spread up and down the Altantic seaboard. Travel was a difficult, drawn-out event. Communication took forever, and could be outdated or even skewed by the time it arrived at its destination. (You play the telephone game over 1,000 miles and see how correct the original message is by the time it gets to the end of the road.) So, national campaigns were both undesirable and impractical. When one considers the size and population of the nation today, it becomes clear that election by pure popular vote is still as impractical as it was then.

At first, Congress toyed with the idea of being the responsible party for electing a president. However, this was quickly rejected because the choice would be too divisive, and was a clear avenue for corruption and partisanship. It was also felt that such an arrangement would upset the balance of power between the legislative and executive branches of the nascent government.

Another thought was to have the state legislatures elect the president, but this too was dismissed from the fear that the president could then be too heavily influced by the legislatures, and that the federal authority would be eroded, leading to the dissolution of federation.

Then, there was always the concept of popular vote. This was rejected not out of distrust of the common man, but because the Founding Fathers felt that without sufficient information about candidates from outside the state, people would default to voting for their "favorite son". This could lead to the event of no clear majority for any one man. It also meant that the choice of president would most often fall to the vagaries of the largest, most populous states, with no regard for less populated geographies.

So, compromise was reached through the Electoral College. This would keep the republic from dissolving over squabbling between states maneuvering for their own interests, keep the larger states from undue influence, and still leave the choice in the hands of the common man. The other advantage was that people could vote locally, without the need for long journeys elsewhere.

The similarity of our Electoral College to the Centurial Assembly System of the Roman Republic makes an interesting side note. In that system, the adult male citizens of Rome were divided into groups of 100, according to their economic status. Each group cast only one vote for or against various Senate proposals.

Now, our Electoral College makes no distinction between economic classes, and the number of votes per state is determined by the size of its Congressional delegation. Still, the idea is the same; which, when we consider the sort of classical educations enjoyed by our Founding Fathers, makes a sort of sense. They would have been well-versed in history, its lessons, and the best way to leverage the past for a better future.

The Electoral College has evolved over time. The 12th Amendment, for example, requires that each Elector cast one vote for president, and then another for vice president. The original method had Electors casting two votes, with the runner up becomming vice president. Also, political parties evolved: "We are a republic!" "No, you jackass, we are a democracy!"

Sigh.

Moving along, this is a good resource for a history of the Electoral College. I was gratified to see that the author shares my own understanding of its evolution and similarity to the old Roman Republic way of doing things.

My point is that the Electoral College, for better or worse, is the way things are done now. Election laws are mandated for the sake of fairness. Trying to cheat that process is detrimental to all, and reveals the sort of sordid dishonor running rampant throughout the country today. True, there are Republicans who have done this, as well as independents. But of the 46,000 people recently discovered registered to vote in two states, 68% of them are Democrats. What does that say about the current state of the party of Andrew Jackson and John F. Kennedy?

I think we can all agree that we're concerned about the direction the country is going. If we weren't, the debates wouldn't be so acrimonious and impassioned. (This is actually a sign of the health of the union. Be concerned when millions of opinions suddenly drop to only one or two.) Nevertheless, the best way to change the system is to work from within it.

I call for an investigation to learn the scope of the fraud. How wide ranging is this issue? In a bitterly contested presidential election year, this sort of cheating is very, very suspicious, and bears closer examination.

posted by Linda on August 24, 2004 08:21 PM
Comments

Democrats have made election cheating into a fine art. In Wisconsin, university students voted for gore up to ten times each, in 2000. Dead Sioux indians voted for Gore and the democrat senate candidate in South Dakota. Dead voters helped Gore in New Mexico, Philadelphia, and Chicago. Felons and junkies pitched in in Florida, often being paid for votes and picked up on skid row and taken to the polls. Illegal aliens voted for Gore in California.
Millions of republican votes were lost from democratic controlled polling places. So who knows who really won the popular vote?

Posted by: Conrad at August 25, 2004 08:14 PM

Conrad, do you have any links to back up those claims (and I am asking sincerely, not bitchy) I would like to have that kind of evidence to throw in the face of those liberals that still claim Bush stole the election. Is funny that they can't even win when they cheat...

Posted by: Ethne at September 21, 2004 03:34 PM

When only literate men are allowed to vote then I may support the abolishment of the Electoral College.

Posted by: Steve A. Redder at October 23, 2004 07:28 PM