The U.S. Electoral College and the Election Process


Recount

Is a chronicle of the weeks after the 2000 U.S. presidential election and the subsequent recounts in Florida.

Before watching the movie

In groups of two answer these questions:

  1. What is the Electoral College?
  2. Why do we have an Electoral College and why was it considered necessary?
  3. What is the official procedure for presidential elections? Illustrate an approximate timeline of key events in any given presidential election year.
  4. Is it possible for a president to win the popular vote but lose the election? How?
  5. Who were the candidates in the 2000 election and what happened?
  6. How was the Supreme court involved?

While watching answer these questions:

  1.  In every presidential election, the media will announce the new President and Vice President
    by the morning after election day; however, when is the President and Vice-President actually
    elected?
  2. What does it mean to “concede?”
  3. Why did Al Gore retract his concession?
  4. Why would a machine recount of Florida’s ballots tally a slightly different number than the
    first time? How was this a threat to the Bush campaign?
  5. Why did the Democrats initiate a hand recount?
  6. What trend did the Democrats discover about old voting machines and the neighborhoods they
    serve?
  7. What did the Democrats discover about voters being turned away from the polls?
  8.  Did the Republicans actively try to stop a hand recount? Why?
  9. What issues did officials encounter with the hand recount?
  10. Why did the Republicans want to count absentee ballots?
  11.  Are absentee ballots usually counted on Election Day?

Our Government and the U.S. Supreme Court Decision

  1. In which court did James Baker think the Republicans would definitely lose? Which
    court did he think they would be more likely to win in the long run?
  2. What did Baker mean when he suggested that “it’s time to exercise our first amendment
    right”? What is the first amendment?
  3. What were the advisory opinions?
  4. Who represented Gore during the trials? Why was this lawyer recruited?
  5. What is the Equal Protection Clause?
  6. Why did the Bush camp think they had a small victory when they learned the Supreme
    Court didn’t set counting standards?
  7. How do you feel about the fact that many counties did not run their ballots through the
    machines again?
  8. Do you think Democrats should have begun planning for lawsuits earlier?
  9. Do you think the Texas voting law signed by Governor Bush helped Gore’s case or was
    it irrelevant to Gore winning in the Florida Supreme Court?

SourceMr. Chazen’s Neighborhood

4 comments

  1. The Electoral College is now the set of 538 dedicated party activists, who vote as rubberstamps for presidential candidates. In the current presidential election system, 48 states award all of their electors to the winners of their state. This is not what the Founding Fathers intended.

    Unable to agree on any particular method for selecting presidential electors, the Founding Fathers left the choice of method exclusively to the states in Article II, Section 1:
    “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors….”
    The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as “plenary” and “exclusive.”

    The Constitution does not prohibit any of the methods that were debated and rejected. Indeed, a majority of the states appointed their presidential electors using two of the rejected methods in the nation’s first presidential election in 1789 (i.e., appointment by the legislature and by the governor and his cabinet). Presidential electors were appointed by state legislatures for almost a century.

    Neither of the two most important features of the current system of electing the President (namely, universal suffrage, and the 48 state-by-state winner-take-all method) are in the U.S. Constitution. Neither was the choice of the Founders when they went back to their states to organize the nation’s first presidential election.

    In 1789, in the nation’s first election, the people had no vote for President in most states, only men who owned a substantial amount of property could vote, and only three states used the state-by-state winner-take-all method to award electoral votes.

    The current winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes is not in the U.S. Constitution. It was not debated at the Constitutional Convention. It is not mentioned in the Federalist Papers. It was not the Founders’ choice. It was used by only three states in 1789, and all three of them repealed it by 1800. It is not entitled to any special deference based on history or the historical meaning of the words in the U.S. Constitution. The actions taken by the Founding Fathers make it clear that they never gave their imprimatur to the winner-take-all method. The winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes became dominant only in the 1830s, when most of the Founders had been dead for decades, after the states adopted it, one-by-one, in order to maximize the power of the party in power in each state.

    The constitutional wording does not encourage, discourage, require, or prohibit the use of any particular method for awarding a state’s electoral votes.

    As a result of changes in state laws enacted since 1789, the people have the right to vote for presidential electors in 100% of the states, there are no property requirements for voting in any state, and the state-by-state winner-take-all method is used by 48 of the 50 states. States can, and have, changed their method of awarding electoral votes over the years. Maine and Nebraska do not use the winner-take-all method.

    Because of the state-by-state winner-take-all electoral votes laws (i.e., awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in each state) in 48 states, a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide. This has occurred in 4 of the nation’s 57 (1 in 14 = 7%) presidential elections. The precariousness of the current state-by-state winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes is highlighted by the fact that a shift of a few thousand voters in one or two states would have elected the second-place candidate in 4 of the 15 presidential elections since World War II. Near misses are now frequently common. There have been 7 consecutive non-landslide presidential elections (1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012). 537 popular votes won Florida and the White House for Bush in 2000 despite Gore’s lead of 537,179 (1,000 times more) popular votes nationwide. A shift of 60,000 voters in Ohio in 2004 would have defeated President Bush despite his nationwide lead of over 3 million votes. In 2012, a shift of 214,733 popular votes in four states would have elected Mitt Romney, despite President Obama’s nationwide lead of 4,966,945 votes.

    All counting, recounting, and judicial proceedings must be conducted so as to reach a “final determination” prior to the common nationwide date for the meeting of the Electoral College. Title 3, chapter 1, section 6 of the United States Code requires the states to report the first Tuesday in November popular vote numbers (the “canvas”) in what is called a “Certificate of Ascertainment.” In Bush v. Gore, the Supreme Court interpreted the federal “safe harbor” statute to mean that the deadline for the state to finalize their vote count is 6 days before the meeting of the Electoral College. The Electoral College meets in each state on the day set by federal law as the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December.

  2. The current presidential election system makes a repeat of 2000 likely. All you need is a thin and contested margin in a single state with enough electoral votes to make a difference. It’s much less likely that the national vote will be close enough that voting irregularities in a single area will swing enough net votes to make a difference. If we’d had National Popular Vote in 2000, a recount in Florida would not have been an issue.

    By state laws, without changing anything in the Constitution, The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the majority of Electoral College votes, and thus the presidency, to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the country, by replacing state winner-take-all laws for awarding electoral votes.

    Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps of pre-determined outcomes. There would no longer be a handful of ‘battleground’ states where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in 80% of the states that now are just ‘spectators’ and ignored after the conventions.

    The bill would take effect when enacted by states with a majority of Electoral College votes—that is, enough to elect a President (270 of 538). The candidate receiving the most popular votes from all 50 states (and DC) would get all the 270+ electoral votes of the enacting states.

    The presidential election system, using the 48 state winner-take-all method or district winner method of awarding electoral votes, that we have today was not designed, anticipated, or favored by the Founders. It is the product of decades of change precipitated by the emergence of political parties and enactment by 48 states of winner-take-all laws, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution.

    The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founders in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for President. States can, and have, changed their method of awarding electoral votes over the years. Historically, major changes in the method of electing the President, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have come about by state legislative action.

    In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided).

    Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in every state surveyed recently. In virtually every of the 39 states surveyed, overall support has been in the 70-80% range or higher. – in recent or past closely divided battleground states, in rural states, in small states, in Southern and border states, in big states, and in other states polled.
    Americans believe that the candidate who receives the most votes should win.

    The bill has passed 33 state legislative chambers in 22 rural, small, medium, large, red, blue, and purple states with 250 electoral votes. The bill has been enacted by 11 jurisdictions with 165 electoral votes – 61% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.

    NationalPopularVote

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