WITT: Electoral College procedures need to be changed
With the presidential election rapidly approaching, there is now before the Supreme Court an interesting case regarding “faithless electors,” and Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams is watching for the outcome of the case.
According to him: “…the Electoral College doesn’t work if the electors don’t actually have to follow the will of the people.”
Just one other reason to do away with the Electoral College.
This whole issue of electors, delegates, superdelegates, faithless electors, pledged electors, unpledged electors and unbound delegates has a speckled, and some would add, weird history.
The Constitution does not require electors to vote for a particular candidate. Rules for electors are made by the states and the parties.
Laws binding delegates to vote for certain candidates have never been tested in the courts until now, and a ruling is expected from the Supreme Court by late June.
However, the Court did rule in 1952 that state laws requiring electors to pledge to vote for the party candidate were constitutional, with the caveat that they could not go further and actually penalize an elector for breaking such a pledge.
Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia have laws against faithless electors, and the case currently before the Supreme Court will apparently rule on the ability of the states or parties to impose sentences or fines on them.
Unpledged electors are called “superdelegates” by the Democrats and “unbound electors” by the Republicans. Such electors represent about 15 percent of the Democratic electors and about 5 percent of the Republican delegates.
In 58 elections there have been 165 cases of “faithlessness,” up to the election of 2016. In that year, seven electors representing both parties voted for a candidate other than the one who had won the state election.
The most famous case of electors abandoning a candidate occurred in 1872, when 63 of 66 delegates pledged to Horace Greeley cast their votes for someone else because Greeley had died after the election and before the Electoral College had convened.
1972 was the last time an elector actually voted for someone from a different party. He was a Virginia delegate who voted for a Libertarian rather than the party nominee, Nixon.
The two major parties each decide how many electors they will have, i.e. how many people each elector will represent, thus how many will be required to produce the party candidate. The Democrats require 2,383, and the Republicans require 1,237.
The current case before the Supreme Court arose from suits brought in Washington and Colorado.
Oddly, the Colorado court ruled that electors could vote anyway they chose, while the Washington court upheld a fine against electors who abandoned their pledge.
Adams supports the Electoral College, claiming it is good for rural states. This is a doubtful conclusion, but perhaps a more reasonable question might be: Why shouldn’t everyone’s vote count equally, without relying on electors?
One additional possible fix to the Electoral College (other than simply abolishing it) would be to have congressional district electors, which would vote based on the results within their legislative districts rather than on the state as a whole. Two states currently utilize this method.
Regardless, there has to be a better way than this system devised more than 200 years ago.
Chuck Witt is a retired architect and a lifelong resident of Winchester. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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