original designers of the Electoral College assumed that there would be multiple popular regional candidates, preventing any one candidate from winning a
majority. Another possibility is that there
could be a tie, with both of the Presidential candidates receiving 269 votes.
In the event of a tie or if neither Presidential candidate receives a majority of
the votes, the decision falls to Congress.
The House of Representatives shall choose
from the top three candidates; however,
each state has equal status with all of the
other states and gets only one vote.
The responsibility to choose the Vice
President falls to the U.S. Senate, with
each Senator casting only one vote. There
is very little chance of this happening,
however. Congress has decided the Presidency only three times, and the last time
this happened was in the election of 1876.
Regarding the electors themselves, what
would happen if a committed Mitt Romney elector decided to vote for Barack
Obama? He would be acting as a faithless elector, someone who casts a vote for
a candidate other than his party’s nominee, and he would be in good company.
We’ve actually had 156 incidents in which
electors did not vote for the Presidential
Timeline for 2012
•;Public;votes;for;Presidential;elec-tors: November 6, 2012
cast their votes: December 17, 2012
Vice President) receives the votes:
By a December 26, 2012 Deadline
the Votes: January 6, 2013
2013, at noon
candidate who won the state’s popular vote.
Some states have laws that can punish elec-
tors who do not vote according to the state’s
popular vote total, but to this date, no one
has ever been prosecuted for being a faith-
less elector. Furthermore, the actions of
faithless electors have never affected the
outcome of a Presidential race.
with Vice President Al Gore receiving
half a million more votes than Governor
This complex system involving state
elections, electors, political parties, and
Congress has its fair share of critics
as well as defenders. Defenders of the
Electoral College note that the process
preserves the important role that states
play in shaping the direction of the national government and preserving our
federalist ideals. Additionally, giving
small-population states a minimum of
three electoral votes assures that states
which would not ordinarily receive much
attention are courted, because as history
has shown, every electoral vote matters.
Critics contend that the system actually gives too much power to small states
with few people in them and enables
candidates to win the Presidency without the support of the majority of the
electorate. Also, modern elections have
largely become a race focused on a few
swing states, since the majority of states
are firmly Democratic or Republican.
A key criticism of this system is that it
makes it impossible for any independent
candidate or third party to have a realistic shot at the Presidency. Indeed, no
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