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How the Next President
Will be Elected

November 14, 2016

On December 19, 2016, certified Electoral College delegates from each state will meet in their respective states formally casting their votes for the next President of the United States.  They vote for the President and Vice-President separately recording their votes on six separate “Certificates of Vote.”  The Constitution mandates that all delegates vote on the same day.  The Vice President is also the President of the Senate and presides over the vote count to be held on January 6, 2017 during a joint session of Congress.  The Senate's President then announces the results.  

In the case that no candidate reaches at least 270 Electoral votes, the newly seated House of Representatives elects the President, the collective Representatives cast one vote per state or a total of 50 votes.  The Senate would elect the Vice-President, if no candidate reached the 270 threshold, with a total of 100 votes possible in the Senate.  

Based on the results of this election, the expected results give Trump at least 306 votes and Clinton 232.   It is unclear for whom a despondent Democratic delegate from Washington State will cast his vote.  Trump and Pence are expected to be elected. 
 
During the Constitutional Convention, the delegates faced many challenges in their efforts to frame a government based upon a balancing of power.  Regarding the election of the President, they considered several different approaches including the election by direct popular vote, and finally agreed upon the Electoral College where each state receives a vote for each of its members of Congress. 
 
The framers rejected several of the options including the election by Congress because in their view the office would then become an extension of Congress and not remain independent.  One framer wrote, “An election by the legislature opened the door for foreign influence,” (i.e. in today’s terms: lobbyist).  

They rejected a direct vote for two reasons.  Signatory Hugh Williamson (N.C.) said, “The principal objection against an election by the people seemed to be the disadvantage under which it would place the smaller states.”  Our Constitutional framers wisely sought to find a balance between a people’s voice and protecting the voice of individuals.  Without this, those with less population would always be subservient to the wishes of larger populations (i.e., California and Texas would have a larger say than Wyoming or Rhode Island and those running for the office of President would ignore the smaller states).   The founders wanted to ensure everybody had a voice in the process of electing the President.  What we saw in this election is that relatively smaller states like North Carolina, Ohio, Michigan, and Iowa (all with 20 or less Electoral votes) had as important a part to play as California with its 55 votes. 

Secondly, they wished to protect the office from the “unfit.”  Hamilton penned an interesting defense, “This process … ... affords a moral certainty that the office of the President will never fall to...any [person] [not] endowed with the requisite qualifications.”  The Constitution does not place any requirement for how a delegate must vote.

Mark, Bill and John

 



 


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