In 2000, Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore won the popular vote, but was not elected president. How does something like that happen, you ask? The answer is the Electoral College.
Here are some things you may not know about how the United States picks its president.
The entire American federal style of government was created through compromise. Because of this, the system, especially regarding the electoral college, is widely criticized.
At the Constitutional Convention of 1787, a majority of the delegates favored a plan that would have allowed Congress to elect the president. A committee negotiated it so that states would receive a number of votes equal to the total of their congressional delegation. However, the constitution bars Representatives, Senators and appointed federal officials from serving as an elector. The reason behind this is to ensure that the vote isn’t made by a group of people that meets regularly.
The system means that states that have higher populations have more electoral votes. The seats in the House of Representatives are apportioned by population, while each state has two senators. The fewest electoral votes any state has is three. The District of Columbia also has three electoral votes.
The Constitution allows the states to decide how to pick their electors. In the first presidential election, only two states, Maryland and Pennsylvania, awarded their electors based on at-large popular elections. The legislatures of four states picked their electors, while the remaining states used district elections or a hybrid system. Until 1832, it was common for state legislatures to vote for electors. South Carolina continued legislative choice until 1868 and four other states have used it one time since. Most of those states were newly admitted to the Union and didn’t have time to hold elections.
Currently, every state, with the exception of Maine and Nebraska, award their electors on a winner-take-all popular-vote. This means that if a candidate gets 50 percent plus one vote, the candidate takes 100 percent of the electors.
Maine and Nebraska use a congressional district method, where each district selects an elector by popular vote, and the two other electors are determined by the statewide total.
California has the most electoral votes with 55, while seven states and the District of Columbia have the minimum three.
The Electoral College never meets as one group. The electors chosen meet in their respective state capital on the Monday after the second Wednesday in December. They cast a separate ballot for president and vice president. Following the vote, the electors sign six certificates of vote. One is sent by registered mail to the President of the Senate, who is usually the incumbent Vice President of the United States. Two others are sent to the Archivist of the United States; two more go to the state’s secretary of state and the final certificate is sent to the chief judge for the U.S. District Court where the electors met.
The certificates sent to the President of the Senate, are collected by a staff member. The unopened envelopes are arranged in alphabetical order in two mahogany boxes. The first box includes Alabama through Missouri, and includes the District of Columbia. The second has Montana through Wyoming.
On January 6, following the election, a joint session of Congress assembles to count the vote. The session is held at 1 p.m. in the larger House chamber. The Vice President presides over the session. The ballots are read in alphabetical order and the legislators have the opportunity to object to any state’s vote count. If both houses agree on the objection, the votes are ignored. Arkansas and Louisiana’s votes were both rejected in the election of 1872.
In 2001, as the incumbent Vice President, Al Gore presided over the election of his opponent George W. Bush. There were objections to the closely contested election, but Gore denied all of them.
To be elected president, a candidate must win a majority of the votes of the Electoral College. The number of required votes is currently 270.
If no candidate receive a majority, the House of Representatives is required to vote for a president immediately. The only candidates eligible are those that received the three highest electoral vote totals. Each state delegation, which excludes the District of Columbia, has a single vote.. A candidate must receive 26 votes to be elected. If no one receives a majority, the House continues voting until someone does. The Senate does the same to pick a vice president, although each senator gets an individual vote. In 1824, the House of Representatives voted for John Quincy Adams over Andrew Jackson. Jackson had received more electoral votes than Adams, but not a majority.
If the House can’t decide on a president by inauguration day, the vice president-elect becomes acting president until the House reaches a decision. If neither house comes to a decision by that time, the Speaker of the House becomes acting president until one of the offices is decided. However, this has never occurred.
The elections of 1876, 1888 and 2000 led to a president being elected without a plurality of the nationwide popular vote. All three of those elections saw Republicans take the White House over Democrats.
Rutherford B. Hayes beat Samuel Tilden in 1876, Benjamin Harrison beat Grover Cleveland in 1888, and Bush beat Gore in 2000.
Besides those results, there are other criticisms of the current process.
The first is that every vote doesn’t necessarily count. If you are a Republican in a heavily Democratic state, or vice versa, it can seem like your vote doesn’t matter.
The system allows the possibility of a candidate being elected by only 11 states. If a candidate were to sweep California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina and New Jersey, he or she would reach to magic number of 270 electoral votes without receiving a single vote in the other 39 states and D.C. In 2008, Barack Obama won nine of those 11 states, needing just 48 electoral votes from the rest of the country. The winner-take-all voting also discourages third-party participation.
That being said, supporters of the Electoral College have arguments in their favor as well. The system forces candidates to look for votes outside of major population areas. It allows smaller states to maintain attention and influence in a presidential race. It also allows for the isolation of election problems. — as each state conducts its own election, any potential fraud is more easily limited to that one state.
Our question, which state preceded California as having the largest number of electoral votes?
Today is International Biodiesel Day, National Day in Ecuador, and Constitution Day in Anguilla.
It’s National S’mores Day, National Lazy Day, and National Duran Duran Appreciation Day.
It’s the birthday of former U.S. President Herbert Hoover, who was born in 1874; singer and sausage magnate Jimmy Dean, who was born in 1928; and singer Ronnie Spector, who is 73 today.
Because our topic happened before 1960, we’ll spin the wheel to pick a year at random.
This week in 1987, the top song in the U.S. was “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” by U2.
The No. 1 movie was “The Living Daylights,” while the novel “Patriot Games” by Tom Clancy topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.
What was the title of the first Led Zeppelin album that didn’t feature the band’s name?
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