by Marvin Nash, Jr.
We are less than a week away from the 2012 Presidential Election, which polls suggest is a tight race between the two candidates. The emphasis and impact of each U.S. citizens vote is considered paramount in a democratic system, where the winner is simply declared by, “majority rule.”
Truth be told, the Electoral College is truly the determining factor as to who our next president will be. So, the question is: does the average persons vote really matter and what is the Electoral College?
The Electoral College actually refers to a process and not an actual brick and mortar building. The Electoral College is supposed to translate the popular vote into an actual vote for the President of The United States. The process itself was constructed by the founding fathers of our country, with the intent to give voice to qualified citizens and Congress.
The Electoral College is made up of 538 electors, of that number only 270 is the minimum requirement to elect the president. The number of electors in each state is determined by the number of members in its respective Congressional delegation. Of the 50 States, 48 of them abide by a winner-take-all system. This means, whichever party wins the popular vote for their respective state, the electors of that party will represent those votes when selecting the President.
There is no mandated Federal law that requires an elector to vote one way or the other, however; most states have either a law that requires electors to vote in favor of the popular vote, or are obligated through pledges to their respective political parties.
Maine and Nebraska are the only two states that do not utilize the winner-take-all system. They use what is referred to as The District System. One electoral vote is granted to the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote in each congressional district, and the remaining electoral votes are granted to the candidates receiving the most statewide votes.
So who are the electors and how are they chosen?
The people who serve as electors usually fall into one of three categories: state-elected officials, party leaders, party activists, or have an affiliation with the presidential candidate, whether it be personal or political.
There are a couple different ways in which the electors are selected. The U.S. Constitution does not specify a specially mandated procedure for the process of nominating candidates to the office of Presidential Elector. Candidates are usually selected by means of state party convention and by state party committee. Potential electors are selected due to their loyalty and commitment to their party.
In some states, you might find the names of the electors appear on the ballot with each presidential and vice presidential candidate. However, in most states, you will not find the names of the electors, which adds to the mystery behind the process of the Electoral College.
The electors will meet at their respective capitol buildings a few weeks after the election to cast the popular vote to make the selection of the president official. Some states will allow the voting process to be open to the public. One would have to check with their local Secretary of State or Governor’s Office to see if the electoral voting process is open in their area.
The Break Down of Electoral Votes
The link above illustrates each state and the number of electoral votes allotted to each. The margin of wins vs. loses for each party can be viewed from past elections. An individual can see the importance of particular states and why presidential candidates focus on particular states due to the number of electoral votes they can garner.
Above illustration shows the electoral votes allotted to the presidential candidates from the 2008 election.
Legal Requirements or Pledges
Electors in these States are bound by State Law or by pledges to cast their vote for a specific candidate:
ALABAMA – Party Pledge / State Law – § 17-19-2
ALASKA – Party Pledge / State Law – § 15.30.040; 15.30.070
CALIFORNIA – State Law – § 6906
COLORADO – State Law – § 1-4-304
CONNECTICUT – State Law – § 9-175
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA – DC Pledge / DC Law – § 1-1312(g)
FLORIDA – Party Pledge / State Law – § 103.021(1)
HAWAII – State Law – §§ 14-26 to 14-28
MAINE – State Law – § 805
MARYLAND – State Law – § 20-4
MASSACHUSETTS – Party Pledge / State Law – Ch. 53, § 8, Supp.
MICHIGAN – State Law – §168.47 (Violation cancels vote and Elector is replaced.)
MISSISSIPPI – Party Pledge / State Law – §23-15-785(3)
MONTANA – State Law – § 13-25-104
NEBRASKA – State Law – § 32-714
NEVADA – State Law – § 298.050
NEW MEXICO – State Law – § 1-15-5 to 1-15-9 (Violation is a fourth degree felony.)
NORTH CAROLINA – State Law – § 163-212 (Violation cancels vote; elector is replaced and is subject to $500 fine.)
OHIO – State Law – § 3505.40 OKLAHOMA – State Pledge / State Law – 26, §§ 10-102; 10-109 (Violation of oath is a misdemeanor, carrying a fine of up to $1000.)
OREGON – State Pledge / State Law – § 248.355
SOUTH CAROLINA – State Pledge / State Law – § 7-19-80 (Replacement and criminal sanctions for violation.) VERMONT – State Law – title 17, § 2732 *
VIRGINIA – State Law – § 24.1-162 (Virginia statute may be advisory – “Shall be expected” to vote for nominees.)
WASHINGTON – Party Pledge / State Law – §§ 29.71.020, 29.71.040, Supp. ($1000 fine.)
WISCONSIN – State Law – § 7.75 WYOMING – State Law – §§ 22-19-106; 22-19-108
No Legal Requirement Electors in these States are not bound by State Law to cast their vote for a specific candidate:
It is important to get out and vote even if you feel that your vote does not count. The Electoral College ensures that your vote will be represented at the polls. Some opinions might lead you to think that the electoral process is this elusive, mysterious group of people that convene to select the next sitting president. You can feel comfortable in your states laws that those chosen as electors are held accountable through state laws or party laws that require them to vote in an honest manner.
Less than a week from today, we will know who out next president will be and if you get out and vote, you can be part of that process.