Is the Electoral College still needed?

Ok. Time for a quick lesson on how US Presidential elections are dumb. Right now, Donald J Trump is the Republican Candidate for President. The ballots are printed, his name is on there come hell or high water.

BUT.

Real big but here. You are not voting for Biden or Il Douche. Instead, you are voting for a slate of electors selected by each party. In each state, the candidate that gets the largest plurality of the vote gets to send their party’s slate of electors to vote in the Electoral College. The electors actually vote for the president.

They can vote for literally anyone. Their ballots are blank slips of paper. They put one name down for President and one for Vice President. They vote in rounds until a candidate for each office gets a majority of the electors’ votes. This happens in December. (If they can’t reach a decision, the House and Senate each pick a President and Vice President.)

So. If Trump dies, resigns or otherwise leaves office between now and December, the Republican party will make a loud suggestion of who they want their electors to vote for. The electors are generally all party loyalists, so you can expect they’ll vote as a block for the RNC’s preferred candidate. This does NOT have to be Pence. They could vote for Kanye and leave Pence in the VP slot or replace him with Sarah Palin. Anything is fair game. So, there might be some jockeying if Trump dies, but almost certainly not before. We likely won’t see most of it, as it’s going to be a backroom deal (within the limits of what the electors will go for).

Trump’s illness does not leave any room for swapping candidates or delaying the election [that wasn’t already there]. Also, if Biden gets a majority of electors, then it doesn’t matter what happens to Trump, there’s a clear line of succession to cover all possibilities there.

(And, why, yes, I think we should abolish the electoral college. It failed at the one thing it was supposed to do: allow electors to override the RNC and prevent someone like Trump from taking office. We can come up with other reasonable rules for what happens when a candidate dies during election season.)

36 Likes

If Trump dies between now and the Electoral College vote then the Republican Party would choose a replacement.

The Party Chair calls a meeting of the National Committee, and the Committee members at the meeting vote to fill the vacancy on the ticket. A candidate must receive a majority of the votes to win the party’s nod.

From TeachingHistory.org

Also has a good explanation of what happens if death after electoral college vote.

Edit: Here is a link to Ballotopedia’s page on the RNC National Committee with a list of who is on it. Not that it seems likely that Trump is going to actually die of COVID-19.

In this modern age when every ballot can be tallied and communicated quickly and ‘accurately’ I, personally, don’t see the point of the Electoral College. What benefit does it confer?

5 Likes

ISTR that the Supreme Court recently ruled that in states that have laws binding electors to vote for the candidates that the are pledged to, those laws are enforceable.

I disagree, In the current “anything that you can get away with GOP” I’d bet that there has already been some quiet, behind the scenes feeling out of the electors by people seeking the nomination. Nothing public, but some buttering up and talking to.

8 Likes

Yeah, they really can’t change the ballots. Even if it were possible, they can’t change the votes already cast by mail or advance polling. The votes count as-is (Trump/Pence), with no reinterpretation allowed.

If they changed the ballots, the already cast ones would split the vote with the new ones, possibly resulting in no Republican electors.

Hm. If they drop Pence from the ticket entirely, that could be awkward if he kicks up a fuss about faithless electors when they’re pledged to him as VP. (All assuming that they’ve won. If not, who cares?)

TBA-TBA 2020

4 Likes

Fortune favors the prepared knife. There won’t be any open jockeying, but there will what-if scenarios … discussed.

4 Likes

The constitution doesn’t say how electors have to vote, but plenty of state laws do, and they say different things. In practice, five hundred faithless electors could no more elect a president out of the blue than a drunk driver could get off because of fringes on a courtroom flag.

AFAIA there’s no real controversy about this: the ticket will be Turmp/Pence, regardless of whether Turmp is upright or even alive on November 4th. Voters will know they’d be voting for Pence, and that he’d install whoever he promised as VP (though that wouldn’t be technically binding). That’s the process, and the GOP has no reason to even want it to be any different at this point.

If both Turmp and Pence were to die before November, and that ticket won the election (or came close to it), that could get chaotic, since the 25th amendment would then make Pelosi president; but that’s not going to happen.

I’m still assuming a living Turmp will win the election, because no good can come of supposing otherwise. But even in 2020, it’s possible to take pessimism too far: the GOP aren’t such evil sorcerors that they can win an election with a dead fascist demagogue.

5 Likes

Do you understand why we do it this way?

Ostensibly to allow a group of decent people the opportunity to prevent exactly the sort of person like Trump from ascending to the presidency, but mostly because of classism and racism.

25 Likes

Yes. It was created in part due to limitations in communication and travel in the 18th century and as a safe guard so the electors could prevent unfit candidates from ascending to the presidency.

In my lifetime, it has led to minority rule twice. The second time, I explicitly said: this is the test. If the electoral college is worth anything, there will be enough defectors to prevent a Trump administration.

There weren’t. I have been very pro reforming it ever since. We’re all gaming out the end of our fucking democracy right now, which only makes me feel more right. So I am quite happy happy to call it a dumb institution that is well past time to replace.

26 Likes

perpetually embedding the power of the agrarian South by creating an indirect system that gave rural states influence disproportionate to their population in order to ensure the institution of slavery was never undermined…

You know. Normal stuff.

19 Likes

I was being generous by arguing against the defensible reasons for it, but yeah, turns out it’s racist too.

8 Likes

So you think the oppinion of more populus states should decide all elections and the government can just ignore the needs of the less populous states? What do you think the result of this, if played out all the way would be? Do you think the dirty food producing states might no longer want to be part of the country?

In my opinion people, not states should decide elections. All citizens should be equal, so their votes should count equally too.

26 Likes

This is a fair argument, for sure. One of the issues I see with it is that the needs, and desires, of people in one sort of state can vary differently in other states. If enough states feel that the process is forever rigged against them then they will move to leave the union as happend before.

And the varying needs and desires of the many is why a two-party system doesnt work for such a diverse country.

But I think this is straying way off topic. There are a few other topics that cover the US electoral process where this could be discussed.

17 Likes

That’s happening right now isn’t it? It sure looks rigged from the outside.

17 Likes

What, like California? Since they produce nearly double the agricultural value of the second-place state of Iowa? In spite of “crippling” environmental regulations and radically higher land prices and taxes? And feature dramatically more crop diversity that leads to not losing 14 million acres to high winds because of crop monoculture?

Oh, and it also has 39.5 million real, actual Americans. That’s 20 million per senator vs Iowa’s (checks math) 1.5 million per senator.

The Senate and the Electoral College are deeply undemocratic institutions any way you slice them.

33 Likes
15 Likes

But it’s ok for the needs, desires, and influence of far more populous states to be ignored and undermined? Which by the way are often the “food producing” economic drivers these days.

For more people to have their vote undermined. For a larger group of voters to have the impression their vote does not matter. A thing that is documented as leading to low turnout and political engagement.

Never mind the way this system primarily dilutes the votes of non-whites who are concentrated in denser states. That the impression that votes don’t matter and people have no voice is largest among non-white voters? As is turnout?

Or that states can’t leave the Union and that war we fought on that front was triggered by the very states it was intended to put in charge. As population shifts and economic changes eroded that control, threatening the institution of slavery.

As we live in an absolute cluster fuck of minority rule by an historically unpopular, unstable administration caused by this very system.

And BTW I live next to a potato field. So you can take the “real America” implications elsewhere. But how dare I mention a documented historical motivation for the electoral college, right? As if it had implications for why it doesn’t work today or something.

Perhaps we should go back to the three fifths compromise. No more assured way to make sure 3 million people in Iowa can dictate terms to 320 million Americans. I mean it’s very important that we placate states by elevating their power and the influence of their citizens above others right? They might use that non-existent, totally a real and present concern, pathway out of The Union otherwise!

17 Likes

One person, one vote. It’s not rocket science.

22 Likes