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The U.S. Electoral College

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1 The U.S. Electoral College
N. R. Miller POLI 423

2 How the EC Works in Practice
Instead of electing a President (and Vice President) in a single national election on Presidential election day, we have 51 separate state (+ DC) elections, in which voters (reasonably enough but incorrectly) think they are voting directly for a Presidential/Vice Presidential ticket. the plurality winner in each state (except ME and NE) wins all of the state’s electoral votes (“winner-take-all”) which are equal in number to the state’s total representation in Congress, i.e., its House seats + 2 plus DC has 3 electoral votes, so total EV = 538, and these electoral votes are added up to determine the winner of the election, with 270 required for election. Thus in practice (about 95% of the time), the EC is merely a vote counting system that takes the popular votes in each state, automatically translates them into nationwide electoral votes, and declares a winner.

3 Implication of the EC in Practice: “Battleground”/“Swing” States
The principal implication of the EC in practice is that it creates battleground (or swing) states, because it matters only which party ticket carries a state, and not what the margin of victory or defeat is. cf. marginal constituencies in the UK. Hence states that are expected to be close become “battlegrounds” while other are substantially ignored. Today (frequent and relatively accurate) state polls make it easier to identify battleground states. Until a decade or two ago, there were relatively few state (as opposed to national) polls. Contemporary campaign resources (especially TV on local channels and cable services) ads can be both focused on particular states, and can moved from one state to another, in contrast to party organization rooted in states and localities in the 19th century, and national TV advertising (mid- to later-20th century).

4 More Esoteric EC Details
Lurking beneath electoral votes are real people called Presidential electors, who voters actually vote for on Presidential election day, who are actually elected on Presidential election day, and who actually cast the electoral votes (about six weeks later). Underlying the “winner-take-all” system is the fact that (in almost universal practice) Presidential electors are elected not individually but on statewide party slates (“general ticket system”). The Constitution gives state legislature the power to determine how their state’s electors are elected (or appointed). A variety of methods other than winner-take-all for selecting Presidential electors have been used by some states in the past, which could often produce split electoral votes from a state. Indeed, at the present time, ME (since 1972) and NE (since 1992) do not award electoral votes on a winner-take-all basis, but rather on the basis of the Modified District Plan, so their electoral votes may be split (though in fact this never happened until 2008 in NE).

5 Esoteric Details (cont.)
Party nominees may occasionally be deprived of electoral votes by “faithless electors,” who cast electoral votes in a way that contradicts their “pledge” to support their party ticket, and in a way that does not reflect popular vote in the state and produces a split electoral vote from a state. If no candidate wins 270 electoral votes, either because a third candidate wins some electoral votes or there is a (mathematically possible) tie, the election is “thrown into the House of Representatives” (which last happened in 1824), where voting by state delegation (one delegation — one vote). A number of elections have other displayed electoral vote oddities --- for example President Truman received no votes in AL in 1948, President Johnson received no votes in AL in 1964, because no elector candidates pledged to these Presidents were on the ballot. “unpledged electors” were elected in AL and MS in 1960. Even presumptive experts (e.g., textbook authors) often mischaracterize esoteric features of the Electoral College. Adkinson and Elliot, “The Electoral College: A Misunderstood Institution,” PS, March 1997

6 Evaluating the Electoral College
Alexander Hamilton, Federalist 68: The mode of appointment of the Chief Magistrate of the United States is almost the only part of the system, of any consequence, which has escaped without severe censure, or which has received the slightest mark of approbation from its opponents I venture somewhat further, and hesitate not to affirm that if the manner of it be not perfect, it is at least excellent. Actually there were some Antifederalist criticisms of “the mode of appointment of the Chief Magistrate,” but they were not among the leading arguments against the proposed Constitution. Many subsequent evaluations (and the many proposed constitutional amendments) suggest a less favorable assessment of the “mode of appointment of the Chief Magistrate,” Range of evaluations: the Electoral College was part of a generally elitist and anti-democratic constitution; or a last-minute jerry-built compromise; or perhaps a well designed compromise among diverse considerations, or possibly the embodiment of well-thought-out selection criteria.

7 Evaluating the Electoral College (cont.)
Today, as a rough generalization, “liberals” mostly criticize the Electoral College and advocate its replacement by a national popular vote, e.g., George Edwards, Why the Electoral College is Bad for America, and Neal R. Peirce, The People’s President, while “conservatives” mostly oppose a national popular vote and defend the existing Electoral College, e.g., Judith Best, assigned reading on webpage and The Case Against Direct Election of the President, and Tara Ross, Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College (with an Introduction by George Will).

8 Evaluating the Electoral College (cont.)
However, in the mid-20th century “liberals” mostly defended the existing Electoral College system, which they viewed as having features that enhanced the voting power of major constituencies of the New Deal, in particular, urban dwellers, racial and ethnic minorities, and union members, and which counterbalanced the rural and conservative advantage in the malapportioned House of the that era, and In the malapportioned Senate of every era. In that era, proposals to modify (but not abolish) the Electoral College (the Modified District and Proportional Plans) were supported mostly by conservatives.)

9 Evaluating the Electoral College (cont.)
My own take on the Electoral College (“Why the Electoral College Is Good for Political Science”): The original EC was a compromise among diverse considerations that was cleverly designed but had a fatal flaw that had to be (and was) corrected by the 12th Amendment to the Constitution in 1804. The original EC established a selection system that was designed to operate in a non-partisan environment, but did not operate satisfactorily once political parties formed to contest Presidential selection. The EC was rapidly transformed into an institution quite different from its designers had intended. So, even if you like the existing EC, you can’t really give credit to “the wisdom of the framers [of the Constitution].” Likewise, even if you dislike the existing EC, you can’t really blame the framers. The transformed EC has proved to be a serviceable institution but is problematic in a number of ways.

10 “Why the Electoral College is Good for Political Science”
Moreover, the Electoral College is a terrific boon for political science research and teaching -- hence, my title (a play on the title of the Edwards book). the origins of the Electoral College and applied social theory; unanticipated consequences in institutional design; political strategy and institutional equilibrium; voting power in weighted voting systems; comparative institutional analysis; individual voting power and the Electoral College; election inversions; Electoral College deadlock; circumventing formal structure through commitment.

11 “Problems” with the EC in Practice
It typically produces a disparity between popular and electoral vote proportions, which almost always exaggerates the winner’s margin, for example Popular Vote Electoral Vote 2008 Obama 53% McCain 46% But is this really a problem?

12 “Problems” with the EC in Practice (cont.)
It “disenfranchises” voters in non-battleground states. On the other hand, are all voters “disenfranchised” in landslide elections? It produces a small state advantage resulting from the apportionment of electoral votes. Regardless of population, every state has two Senators, and at least one House seat, and therefore has at least three electoral votes. It produces a large state advantage resulting from the winner-take-all system (not fixed by the Constitution) in casting electoral votes. But can both of the problems be true?

13 “Problems” with the EC in Practice (cont.)
An creates an incentive for disputes or fraud concerning vote counting in pivotal states, e.g., Florida in 2000. But with a close national popular vote, any such dispute would be nationwide. It tolerates an absence of national standards for voter qualifications, voter registration, voting technology, ballot access, etc. But imposing national standards might be controversial. It is subject to spoiler effects, so that the presence or absence of a third candidate who cannot win the election may tip the outcome between the two major candidates, e.g., Nader (and possibly Buchanan) in 2000. But in fact, every electoral system whatsoever is vulnerable in some degree to spoiler effects.

14 “Problems” with the EC in Practice (cont.)
It can produces “minority” Presidents, who win less than a majority of the popular vote, but are elected on the basis winning a majority (270+) of electoral votes, e.g., Bush in 2000, Clinton in both 1996 and 1992, Nixon in 1968, Kennedy in 1960, Truman in 1948, Wilson in both 1916 and 1912. But many electoral systems do the equivalent. The British refer to such an effect as a manufactured majority. Every British election since WWII has produced a manufactured majority except the two (February 1974 and May 2010) that did not produce any majority (that produced a “hung Parliament”), i.e., in which the leading party held fewer than half the seats in House of Commons.

15 “Problems” with the EC in Practice (cont.)
Most important, it produces election inversions (or “reversals of winners,” “wrong winners,” “EC misfires,” etc.) in which a candidate who wins less than a plurality of the popular vote is elected on the basis of electoral votes. Popular Vote Electoral Vote 2000: Bush (R) % Gore (D) % 1888: Harrison (R) % Cleveland (D) % 1876: Hayes (R) % Tilden (D) % 1960(?): Kennedy (D) % (?) Nixon (R) % (?)

16 “Problems” with the EC in Practice (cont.)
The election inversion problem is usually regarded as the most serious flaw in the Electoral College. In fact, every districted electoral system is subject to election inversions. Election inversions occur in parliamentary systems as well as U.S. Presidential elections (but get less attention). Votes Seats UK 1951: Conservative % Labour % In fact, election inversions can occur under (list) proportional representation systems: Netherlands 2010: VVD+PVD+CDA* % All other parties % * This coalition of parties actually formed the government.

17 Problems with Details of the EC
Unpledged or faithless electors might determine the outcome of the election. But this is unlikely --- they’re looking for their 15 minutes of fame. State legislatures can manipulate the manner of selecting electors. Colorado Proposition 36 in 2004 (Democratic supported initiative) Republican efforts in CA in 2008 and PA in 2012 If a state decides to select electors by district, the districts may be gerrymandered. A state legislature might decide to appoint electors. There is “no constitutional right to vote for President” (or even Presidential electors). The most problematic feature of the Electoral College is Contingent Procedure (when an election is “thrown into the House”). We have little understanding of how this would work in practice. State equality regardless of population appears to be unsupportable (especially today, e.g., CA vs. WY) A President would not be selected until about two weeks before Inauguration Day (if then).

18 Alternatives to the Existing Electoral College System
As we have noted, some changes in the EC system can by made by individual state legislatures, namely, how their electors are selected and thus how state electoral votes are cast (winner-take-all or otherwise). Other changes would require an amendment to the Constitution, e.g., to change or abolish position of electors, change the apportionment of electors/electoral votes among the states, or abolish or change the contingent procedure. Of course, a constitutional amendment is also required to make nationally uniform changes in how electors are selected and electoral votes are cast. Congress can’t direct change the EC by simple legislation; however, it can change the size of the House or Representatives, admit new states (and thus increase the size of the Senate), both of which would change the size of the Electoral College and the magnitude of the small state advantage in the apportionment of electoral votes), and change the method of apportioning House seats among the states on the basis of the decennial census.

19 Alternatives to the Existing EC System (cont.)
The Automatic Plan. Regularize the existing system by abolishing the position of elector while retaining electoral votes to be automatically awarded on a winner-take-all basis to the popular-vote winner in each state. This requires a U.S. constitutional amendment, which probably should abolish or revise the contingent procedure as well. The Pure District Plan. Select electors by plurality vote in single-member districts within states. This can be implemented on a state-by-state basis. But if it is effected by a constitutional amendment, it should probably revise the contingent procedure as well. The Modified District Plan. Select electors by plurality in the existing single-member Congressional Districts, with the two remaining (“Senatorial”) electors elected state-wide. This can be implemented on a state-by-state basis (as ME and NE have done). The Mundt-Coudert Plan proposed this as a constitutional amendment in the 1950s and in revised form in the 1960s. It modified the contingent procedure to a joint ballot of the whole Congress voting as individuals.

20 Alternatives to the Existing EC System (cont.)
The (Pure) Proportional Plan. Award the electoral votes of each state to candidates precisely (out to three or more decimal places) in proportion to their popular votes within each state. Since fractional electoral votes would result, the office of elector would have to be abolished. This therefore requires a constitutional amendment, which should probably abolish or revise the contingent procedure as well. The Lodge-Gossett Plan proposed this as a constitutional amendment in the 1940s and 1950s, and it modified the contingent procedure to a joint ballot of the whole Congress voting as individuals. The Whole-Number Proportional Plan. Award the electoral votes of each state to candidates in whole numbers that are proportional as possible to their popular votes within the states. An established PR apportionment formula could be used. Since electors could be retained, this can be implemented on a state-by-state basis, e.g., Colorado Proposition 36 in 2004 (using an ad hoc PR formula). But if it is effected by a constitutional amendment, it should probably abolish or revise the contingent procedure as well, especially as minor candidate could more easily win electoral votes.

21 Alternatives to the Existing EC System (cont.)
The National Bonus Plan. Retain the existing system (or use the Automatic Plan) but award an additional bonus of [perhaps 102] electoral votes to the national popular vote plurality winner. This would require a U.S. constitutional amendment. Its obvious rationale is to preclude election inversions and it would effectively preclude the contingent procedure as well. Revision of Contingent Procedure. Many options exist, but these have received the most attention: abolish the electoral vote majority requirement for election entirely, or reduce the majority requirement, and/or change the nature of the contingent procedure, i.e., to election by a joint session of Congress, voting one-member, one-vote. But the problem of electoral vote ties (which also leads to the contingent procedure) remains so long as the number of electoral votes is even. The current problem was created by the 23rd Amendment giving DC three electoral votes (starting in 1964).

22 Alternatives to the Existing EC System (cont.)
The Popular Vote Plan. Abolish the Electoral college in its entirety and hold a national direct popular election for President (and Vice President), with or without an runoff (“instant” or otherwise), and perhaps (if a runoff is used) using a 40% (rather than 50%) quota for election in the first round. This would require a constitutional amendment. Such a national popular vote might/should entail national administration of Presidential (and Congressional, while we’re at it?) elections, including nationally uniform voter qualifications, national voter registration (and voter ID requirements,if any), nationally uniform ballot types and voting technology, nationally uniform rules for ballot access (listing of candidates), etc.

23 The National Popular Vote Plan

24 National Popular Vote Plan (cont.)
This is a proposal to (in effect) enact a direct national popular election for President without using a constitutional amendment, which requires ratification by three-quarters of the states, and is therefore believed to be very difficult to obtain. Its starting point is the fact that, under the Constitution, state legislatures have sole power over how their Presidential electors are selected.

25 National Popular Vote Plan (cont.)
NPVP proposes that states collectively controlling at least 270 electoral votes enter into an interstate compact that would commit them to select Presidential electors who would cast their electoral votes, not for the candidate who carries their state, but for the “national popular vote winner.” Note that “national popular vote winner” means plurality winner, so NPVP would also preclude the House contingent procedure barring a national popular vote tie.

26 Problems with the NPVP NPVP does not (and cannot) address the problems entailed by direct popular vote previously identified; in particular, national rules for and administration of Presidential elections and runoff or related provisions There is no officially certified “national popular vote winner.” Would the compact hold, especially in the event of an extremely close/disputed (with respect to the national popular vote) election? In every election, some states in the compact would have to cast electoral votes for the candidate that lost the popular vote in that state. In some (close) elections, such electoral votes would be decisive. In particular, would the compact hold in the event that there would otherwise be an election inversion (the very event the NPVP is designed to preclude)?

27 Why Do We Have an Electoral College?
The answer goes back to 1787 and the framing of the U.S. Constitution. The charge to the Constitutional Convention was to revise and strengthen the Articles of Confederation. Under the A of C, the only central government institution was Congress. Each state legislature appointed Congressional delegates. Each state delegation had one vote (the same rule was used in the Constitutional Convention). A 9/13 supra-majority was required for substantive matters. 13/13 unanimity was required to amend the A of C. Congress had very limited powers; in particular, It could not lay and collect taxes, and It could not pass laws that directly exercised its powers. In both respects, Congress had to rely on the cooperation of state legislatures. There was no national executive or judiciary.

28 Why Do We Have an Electoral College? (cont.)
The Constitution expanded the powers of Congress and allowed Congress to exercise its powers by passing laws that bound individuals directly, and that would be executed by a national executive (President), who also had other independent powers, and that would be enforced by a national court system. The executive (and judiciary) would also “check and balance” the “naturally predominant” legislature.

29 Designing The Original Electoral College
Designing the mode of selecting the President was one of the most difficult tasks that confronted the framers. Their most famously difficult task was designing the scheme of representation for a new national legislature. The difficulty in the legislative case lay in the fact that most delegates knew what they wanted, but different delegates wanted different things: small-state delegates wanted to preserve the principle of state equality, while large-state delegates wanted state representation proportional to state population (and/or wealth). In contrast, the difficulty in the executive case was that most delegates were not at all sure what they wanted, though the small-state versus big-state conflict remained a factor).

30 Designing The Original Electoral College
The menu of options for Presidential selection: Selection by states, But this would be too much like the Article Confederation; Selection by the Congress, which was the “default option” found in both VA and NJ plans. But many feared it would make the President too dependent on and (if eligible for re-election) subservient to Congress. How would a bicameral Congress (as provided for by the “Great Compromise”) elect a President? House only Senate only concurrent ballot joint ballot Selection by some kind of popular election which presented many practical difficulties. Some kind of mixed system, which might distinguish between a first round of selection (“nomination”) and a second round of selection (“election” or “runoff”), and might use “intermediate electors.

31 Designing The Original EC (cont.)
The perceived advantages of an Electoral College of intermediate electors: unlike Congress, the EC would perform a single task – i.e., cast votes for President -- and would then disband, so the President would be subservient to neither Congress nor the Electoral College; and unlike popular election, the EC avoided difficult questions about the extent of suffrage, and allowed a compromise between the large vs. small states through its fine details, and and public opinion could be informed and refined through representation. Since legislative election was the default choice, it is more accurate to say the framers settled on the EC as an alternative to legislative election, rather than as an alternative to popular election.

32 The Original Electoral College Rules
Each state selects a number of “electors” equal in number to its total (House + Senate) representation in Congress (H + 2). The legislature of each state determines the mode of selection of the electors from its state, the most likely options being Election/appointment by the legislature itself, popular election from districts, and popular election on a state-wide general ticket. Congress has the power to determine when electors are selected, and when electors cast their votes (which must be the same day for all states). Originally, Congress gave the states a window of about 30 days within which to select electors.

33 The Original Electoral College (cont.)
The “Electoral College” never meets as a group in one place. Rather electors meet and vote in their own state capitals Electors were originally required to cast two votes for two different candidates, at least one of whom had to be a resident of another state, In effect, electors could vote for one “favorite son” but were required also vote for at least one “national candidate.” Once cast, the electoral votes are each are transmitted to Congress, to be counted before a joint session presided over by the President of the Senate (Vice President of U.S.). To be elected by the Electoral College, a candidate was originally required to receive votes from a majority of electors and more votes than any other candidate. Given this double vote system, these requirements were logically distinct. In particular, more that one candidate could receive the required majority.

34 The Original Electoral College (cont.)
If no candidate met both requirements, the election would be “thrown into the House of Representatives.” The House chooses between the two (or more) tied candidates, in the event both (or all) received votes from a majority of electors, or (in the original EC) among the top five candidates, in the event no candidate received votes from a majority of electors. Voting in the House is by state delegation, with each delegation casting one vote. Balloting continues until some candidate is supported by a majority of state delegations.

35 The Fatal Flaw in the Original Electoral College
However, the Committee was concerned that some electors might “throw away” their second votes. It believed a second office had to be at stake to induce electors to take their second votes seriously. For this reason (only), it proposed the office of Vice President. The Vice Presidency was ‘introduced only for the sake of a valuable mode of election which required two to be chosen at the same time,’ which largely explains the awkward and largely impotent place this office occupies in the overall constitutional scheme. This turned out to be a miscalculation that produced a fatal flaw in the original EC, and created what historian Richard McCormick has called a “hazardous game” of Presidential selection.

36 The Electoral College: An Example
THE ORIGINAL ELECTORAL COLLEGE BEFORE THE 12th AMENDMENT AND USING THE PROVISIONAL APPORTIONMENT OF HOUSE SEATS House Size = 65 Number of Electors = 65 + (2 × 13) = 91 Number of Electoral Votes = 2 × 91 = 182 Maximum Vote Any Candidate Can Receive = 91 (one vote from every elector) Required Majority = 46 (one vote from a majority of electors) If no one gets 46 votes or if there is a tie among those who do: Required Vote in House = 7 In any event, the runner-up becomes Vice President [Note: these numbers were never actually used.]

37 Expectations Concerning the Original EC
This original Electoral College system was designed to operate in a non-partisan environment. It therefore was expected that typically there would be many potential Presidential candidates, who would not declare themselves as such, let alone actively campaign for the office, and electors would choose among these candidates on the basis of their character and connections, not party affiliation or policy promises. Therefore, it was also expected that electoral votes would be widely scattered and the “House contingent procedure” would be used “19 times out of 20” (George Mason’s estimate), so big states would have the dominant role in “screening/nominating” candidates (in the EC), while small states would have equal role in most final/runoff elections (in the House).

38 Expectations Concerning the EC (cont.)
However, James Madison (a “big-state” advocate) thought/hoped that big state electors would coordinate their electoral votes so as to keep the election out of the House (where small states would have the advantage). Madison, not Mason, was correct in his expectation, but not for the reason he gave. It was generally hoped and expected that electors would typically be popularly elected from single-member districts (like most state legislators, delegates to the state ratifying conventions, members of the British House of Commons, and as was expected also for members of the new U.S. House); and that they would be well-informed local notables who would act as representative trustees of their states and districts.

39 The Hazardous Game: President Selection under the Original Electoral College
There were problems from the very start. From the outset, electors and those who selected them (and most everyone else) thought of a presidential election, not as an occasion to cast two votes for two worthy presidential candidates, but as an occasion to elect a Presidential-Vice Presidential ‘ticket.’ In the very first election of 1789, it was generally agreed that George Washington should be the first President, and John Adams should be the first Vice President. Most or all electors were expected to cast one vote for Washington and one vote for Adams.

40 The Hazardous Game (cont.)
But this expectation was precarious: If just one elector were to cast one vote for Adams and one vote for anybody but Washington, Adams would be elected President and Washington would be relegated to the Vice Presidency. On the other hand, if every elector did in fact cast one vote for Washington and one for Adams, there would be an electoral vote tie, sending the election to the House. Indeed, Alexander Hamilton (who disliked Adams) was afraid that some New England electors would withhold votes from Washington, thereby making Adams president. In anticipation of this, he urged some other electors to withhold votes from Adams. In fact, all electors voted for Washington but quite a few did not vote for Adams, so in fact the agreed upon “ticket” was elected.

41 Scattering of second votes
The Election of 1789 Not literally unanimous Double-vote system NC and RI had not yet ratified NY failed to cast electoral votes Scattering of second votes Fears that northerners wanted to make Adams President

42 The Election of 1792 We see beginnings of the Federalist-Republican two-party system in the second (“Vice Presidential”) votes

43 Schattschneider’s Law
The framers’ expectations did not anticipate the development of a national two-party system. Schattschneider’s Law: if you create a large popularly elected legislative body, party caucuses will arise in the legislature, and political parties will develop in the electorate. Caucuses and parties are organized attempts to win by concentrating votes (through a bloc vote [in the legislature] or nominating process [in elections]) on a few motions or candidates, They arise because ambitious politicians find it expedient to conspire with others to win these contests.

44 Duverger’s Law Duverger’s Law: If you have single-winner elections, you get (in equilibrium) two political parties, i.e., two rival organized attempts, each trying to concentrate votes on a single candidate. Conversely, parliamentary systems using proportional representation in large districts tend to produce and sustain multi-party systems. In part, Duverger’s Law is driven by strategic (or tactical) voting by ordinary voters who are reluctant to “waste” their votes by voting for third candidates/parties that have no real chance of winning.

45 Duverger’s Law (cont.) In much greater part, Duverger’s Law is driven by the strategic calculations of ambitious candidates and parties. If a party splits and runs two (more or less clone) candidates, they will be spoilers against each other and throw the election to the other party. This prospect of electoral disaster creates a huge incentive for even a highly factionalized party to unite behind a single candidate. Conversely, if there are three significant candidates or parties are contesting an election, there is a huge incentive for two of them “to make deal” under which one makes a strategic withdrawal in favor of the other (in return for something). In general, each party in a competitive two-party system has a huge incentive to remain united and not split into rival factions that run candidates in general elections. With respect to the Electoral College system, Duverger’s Law implies that (contrary to the Framers’ expectations) the House contingent procedure will be bypassed at least “19 times out of 20.”

46 The Hazardous Game:1796 The first contested Presidential election:
Federalists: John Adams (MA) & Thomas Pickney (SC) Republicans: Thomas Jefferson (VA) & Aaron Burr (NY) They were “nominated” by their respective Congressional Caucuses. Note the regionally (North & South) balanced tickets. Each party nominated elector candidates pledged to vote their party’s candidates. Intra-Federalist maneuvering: Hamilton (continuing to feud with Adams) unsuccessfully urged some Southern electors to vote for Pickney & anybody but Adams However, some Northern electors learned about this and withheld votes from Pickney. The electoral vote outcome was very close: Federalists won 71 electors, all of whom voted for Adams, giving Adams the required majority of 70 for election as President. Republicans won 68 electors, all of whom voted for Jefferson. But the withholding of second votes from Pickney lowered his vote total to 59, dropping him to third place behind Jefferson, So the defeated Republican Presidential candidate became Vice President. Burr won only 30 votes.

47 The Election of 1796 (cont.) [Electors =138; Electoral votes = 276, Required majority = 70]

48 The Election of 1796 (cont.) Sectionalism is evident, despite the sectionally balanced tickets. Many states did not select electors by popular vote. Most state electoral votes are cast winner-take-all.

49 Lessons from the Hazardous Game
Electors are expected to be “party men,” i.e., “pledged electors.” However, Samuel Miles (Fed., PA) violated his pledge (first “faithless elector”). An angry Federalist supporter complained: “What, do I chuse Samuel Miles to determine for me whether John Adams or Thomas shall be President? No! I chuse him to act, not to think.” State legislative elections (perhaps coming a year or more in advance of Presidential elections), become very important for politicians with national ambitions, because legislatures chose how to select electors and may change the method from election to election; and legislatures may choose to appoint the electors themselves.

50 Lessons from the Hazardous Game (cont.)
A party that controls a state legislature may not want to risk a popular election for electors. States using legislative election increased to 10 in 1800. And if a controlling party is confident it can win popular election, the particular mode of popular election can be manipulated (e.g., to winner-take-all) to short-term party advantage. Jefferson to Monroe (1800): “All agree that an election by districts would be best if it could be general, but while ten states choose either by their legislatures or by a general ticket, it is folly or worse for the other six not to follow.”

51 The Hazardous Game: 1800 Largely a repeat of 1796:
same candidates (except one Pickney replaced by another); and same battle lines. However, the strategic implications of the EC rules were (even) better understood: manipulation of elector selection; and danger of withholding too many votes. The election of 1800 was as close as 1796 but tipped the other way. Republicans won 73 electors vs. 65 for Federalists. The Republicans (unlike the Federalists) failed to withhold one “Vice Presidential” electoral vote. Jefferson: 73 Burr: 73 Adams: 65 Pickney: 64 Jay: 1


53 The Hazardous Game: 1800 (cont.)
But the original EC rules did not distinguish between “Presidential” vs. “Vice-Presidential” electoral votes. So the election was “thrown into House,” under the contingent procedure, choosing between the tied candidates Jefferson and Burr only. Burr did not chose to withdraw. Four electoral votes from GA had been improperly certified but the “intent of the voters” was clear (four votes for each of Jefferson and Burr). Had they been disqualified as invalid, no candidate would have received the required 70 electoral votes, in which case the House could have chosen any of the five candidates as President. But Vice President Jefferson, presiding over the counting of electoral votes, “counted himself [and Burr] in.” Note that the single Federalist elector who voted for Adams and Jay could have voted for Adams and Burr, in which case Burr would have immediately been elected President on the basis of electoral votes (with no House election) and Jefferson would have remained Vice President.

54 The Hazardous Game: 1800 (cont.)
Until 20th Amendment (1933), a newly elected Congress did not convene until late in the year following Congressional elections. So the 1800 Presidential election was thrown into the “lame duck” House elected in 1798, which was still controlled by the Federalists (55-50), though Republicans controlled the House elected in 1800. There were 16 state delegations, so 10 votes were required for election. Each delegation would decide how to vote by majority vote within the delegation. Republicans controlled 8 state delegations. Federalists controlled 6 state delegations. Two state delegation were equally split. Evidently, all Republican representatives supported Jefferson as the intended Presidential candidate. Likewise, all Federalist representatives supported Burr, in order to deny the presidency to more formidable Jefferson. The two internally tied delegations had to abstain. For 35 ballots, the House deadlocked: Jefferson 8 and Burr 6 with 2 abstentions. Ultimately, the four Federalists within in the tied delegations abstained, resulting in Jefferson’s election on the 36th ballot.

55 Contingent Procedure in the House, 1801

56 The 12th Amendment After the 1800 fiasco, Congress proposed, and the states quickly ratified (in time for 1804 election), the 12th Amendment to the Constitution. Electors now cast separate (single) votes for President and Vice President. The required electoral vote majority for President (and for Vice President) is a simple majority of votes cast (= number of electors), which at most one candidate can achieve. If no candidate receives the required simple majority for President, the House (still voting by state delegations) chooses from among the top three [vs. top five] candidates. If no candidate receives the required majority for Vice President, the Senate (voting individually) chooses from among the top two candidates. Early drafts of the amendment included a requirement that electors be popularly elected from districts, but this provision was later dropped. The 12th Amendment remains the constitutional language governing Presidential elections.

57 The Transformation of the Electoral College
By the 1830s, the Electoral College, already formally modified by the 12th Amendment, had been further transformed into the kind of (essentially) automatic popular vote counting system that exists today. This transformation was driven largely by the development of a two-party system, and was brought about without any further constitutional amendments or (with one minor exception) change in federal law, but rather by changes in state laws and party practice.

58 Elements of the Transformation (cont.)
In early elections, the mode of selecting Presidential electors was regularly manipulated by party politicians in each state, on the basis of partisan calculations. By 1832, Presidential electors were almost universally selected by popular (vs. legislative) vote (and by much expanded electorates). South Carolina was the lone hold out. By 1836, the mode of popular election in every state was (following Jefferson’s strategic advice) the general ticket (or party slate), rather than election from districts (or by some kind of proportional representation). This induced the almost universal “winner-take-all” rule for the casting electoral votes at the state level. However, at the present time two small states (ME and NE) use the “Modified District Plan.”

59 Mode of Elector Selection

60 Mode of Elector Selection (cont.)
Why were state legislatures willing to give up the power to select Presidential electors? The intensity of party competition declined after 1800. There was a minor split in Democratic-Republican ranks in 1812. DeWitt Clinton sought the Presidency as an “Independent Democratic-Republic” and was endorsed by the Federalists. Democrats did the same in 1872 when Horace Greeley ran as a “Liberal Republican.” Legislative appointment of electors was disrupting state legislative elections. cf. the willingness of state legislatures to ratify the 17th Amendment (popular election of U.S. Senators)

61 Mode of Elector Selection (cont.)
Why were state legislatures willing to give up the power to select Presidential electors? The intensity of party competition declined after 1800. Legislative appointment of electors was disrupting state legislative elections. cf. the willingness of state legislatures to ratify the 17th Amendment (popular election of U.S. Senators) Why did election of electors by districts give way to election of electors at-large (usually on a slate or “general ticket”)? Partisan strategic considerations, as expressed by Jefferson to Monroe in 1800. More important: state strategic considerations. No matter what other states may do, each state could enhance its influence in Presidential politics by casting electoral votes on a winner-take-all basis. There is no “equilibrium” until all states use the winner-take-all method. It turns out that this “equilibrium” results in a new balance of Electoral College voting power that is more favorable to the large states, more than counterbalancing the small-state advantage in apportionment of electoral votes.

62 “Winner-Take-All” Most states use a general ticket system in which votes chose among party slates of elector candidates. Vote for one slate of electors: Democratic electors Republican electors [Minor party electors] This effectively guarantees that a state’s electoral votes are cast “winner-take-all.” However, earlier in some states electors ran as individuals on a generalized plurality basis. Vote for no more than four elector candidates: D1 R1 D2 R2 D3 R3 D4 R4 Typically almost every voter would vote for all Democratic elector candidates or all Republican elector candidate, again producing a “winner-take-result.”

63 “Almost Winner-Take-All”
However, when the Presidential contest within the state was very close, small discrepancies among the votes for elector candidates might produce a divided electoral vote: D1 93,456 R1 91,993 D2 93,381 R2 91,553 D3 92,358 R3 90,852 D4 91,679 R4 90,761 In this case, the electoral vote would be divided 3 for the Democratic ticket and 1 for the Republican ticket. By convention, the “popular vote” for President in this state would be recorded as: Democratic ticket 93,456 Republican ticket 91,993

64 Bypassing the Contingent Procedure
Given a two-party system accommodated by the 12th Amendment, it is virtually assured that one or other Presidential (and Vice Presidential) candidate will receive the required majority of electoral votes. Thus Madison hope to keep the election out of the House is realized, not by coordination among the big states, but by coordination (a nominating process) within each of two political parties. In this way, the Electoral College system was transformed into something in two ways more favorable to large states than the Framers expected, i.e., not only do large states gain more power in the first (electoral vote) stage (due to winner-take-all electoral votes), but also the second (House contingent election stage) stage (where small states have equal power) is almost always bypassed.

65 “Inverse” Duverger’s Law and the Election of 1824
The “inverse” of Duverger’s Law implies that if one of the parties in a two-party system is greatly weakened, or is unable or unwilling to compete for votes effectively, the dominant party is very likely to break apart, because the external threat that otherwise keeps it together is removed. The election of 1824 (the second and last time an election was thrown into the House) is the “exception that proved the rule” that a two-party system bypasses the contingent procedure. The Federalist Party had collapsed and the Democratic-Republican Party was unchallenged. Consequently there was no longer pressure for D-Rs to unite behind a single Presidential-Vice Presidential ticket. Four candidates, all nominally belonging to the same D-R party, sought the Presidency. Unsurprisingly, no candidate received a majority of the electoral votes and the election was thrown into the House.

66 The Election 1824 (cont.) The four candidates were:
John Quincy Adams (Secretary of State) Henry Clay (U.S. Representative and Speaker) William Crawford (Secretary of the Treasury) Andrew Jackson (hero of the Battle of New Orleans and representative of the “common man”) Presidential election results (“first round”): Electoral Votes Popular Votes* Jackson % Adams % Crawford % Clay % Others % *Bear in mind that six states still appointed electors and that states that used popular election varied considerably with respect to the extent of franchise.

67 The Election of 1824 (cont.) The compromise candidate Clay (most everyone’s second choice, who probably could have defeated each other candidate in a “straight fight”) was squeezed out of third place in the electoral vote ranking by Crawford. Under the 12th Amendment, the House could chose only from among top three candidates. Clay probably would have been elected president if the House could still chose among the top five candidates; or if Crawford had not been a candidate (i.e., Crawford was a spoiler to Clay). Even if Adams or Jackson had won all the electoral votes cast for Crawford, Clay would have been among top three candidates. However, if Jackson had won at least 32 of Crawford’s electoral votes, Jackson would have been elected without a House runoff.

68 The Election of 1824 (cont.) New York’s 36 electoral votes were split among all four candidates. If Adams had won Crawford’s five electoral votes in addition to the 26 he actually won, Adams probably would have lost the election, as Clay then would then have placed third in electoral votes and probably won the House runoff. This provides a historical example of ‘monotonicity failure’ in [instant] runoff [AV] elections. Clay had great influence in the House, detested Jackson and endorsed Adams. Adams (just) won on the first ballot (24 state delegations): Adams 13 Jackson 7 Crawford 4 Adams subsequently appointed Clay Secretary of State. Jackson and his supporters denounced the “corrupt bargain” between Adams and Clay.

69 House Runoff (cont.) Whenever there is a “serious” third-party ticket (especially one with a geographical base of support such that it may win electoral votes), the possibility arises that the election may be thrown into the House arises. Moreover, since the 23rd Amendment (giving the District of Columbia three electoral votes) was ratified in 1961, the total number of electoral votes has been an even number (538), so a electoral vote tie is possible, and an election might be thrown into the House even in the absence of a third-party candidate winning election votes. Prior to the 1825 House election, the House adopted special rules for its conduct. These rules remain in effect and would (presumably) by used in any future House election.

70 The EC as a Vote-Counting Mechanism
In 1845 Congress established a uniform nationwide Presidential election day (i.e., day for selecting Presidential electors), namely the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. On Tuesday, November 6, 2012, voters in each state will go to the polls and vote for either the Democratic or Republican (or possibly some other) slate of elector candidates, who are pledged to their party’s (Pres. + VP) nominees. With popular election of slates of pledged electors, American voters may be forgiven for thinking they are actually voting directly for a Presidential-Vice Presidential ticket. Often only fine print on the ballot indicates otherwise and in some states not even that.

71 Vote-Counting Mechanism (cont.)
In each state, the elector slate receiving the most votes is elected (with the possible exceptions noted for ME and NE). The electors will meet in their state capitals in mid-December and cast their electoral votes as pledged. Electoral vote tallies will be transmitted from each state capital to Congress and will be counted before a joint session on January 5, 2009. The President of the Senate [Vice President Biden] will announce the votes for President and Vice President and proclaim that ?? and ?? are the President-elect and Vice President-elect. So (almost certainly) everything will be determined on election night in November, and the remaining steps are merely ceremonial; that is, TV prognosticators can report the popular vote winner in each state, add up the corresponding electoral votes, and declare a President-elect.

72 According to Nate Silver’s Forecasting Model
Women only: Obama 347, Romney 140, Toss-Up 51

73 According to Nate Silver’s Forecasting Model
Men only: Obama 146, Romney 321, Toss-Up 71

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