The Electoral College and the Constitution – A Tutorial
by Temerity Forthright
Most citizens of the United States erroneously believe that they elect the president. Obviously, they have never read the Constitution.
Many go on to say that since Hillary Clinton got more popular votes than Donald Trump that she should have won the election. Again, they never read the Constitution.
Trump received 290 electoral votes to Hillary’s 232. Here’s how and why Trump won the presidency over Clinton.
The Electoral College was established in Article II Section 1 of the Constitution. There are now 538 electors, of which a minimum of 270 of them are needed to officially elect the next president. All states, except for Maine and Nebraska, have a winner-take-all system in which the winning candidate in those states is awarded all their electoral votes.
So, in terms of following the Constitution, we do not officially have a president yet. The people of the Electoral College will meet to cast their votes for president on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December, which is December 19, 2016. But we still won’t have a president then, at least not officially.
On January 6, 2017, the Electoral College votes that were cast from each state, including the District of Columbia (established by the 23rd Amendment), will be counted in a joint session of Congress. The vice president, who presides over the count, will announce the results of that count. Then, and only then, will we have officially elected Donald J. Trump as the next President of the United States. He will be inaugurated on January 20, 2017 (established by the 20th Amendment).
There were four other presidential elections when the winner of the popular vote did not win the Electoral College vote. Remember Sore-Loserman? Al Gore and Joe Lieberman lost the 2000 presidential election to George Bush by a hanging chad. George Bush won 271 electoral votes although Al Gore received half a million more popular votes.
In 1888 Benjamin Harrison beat incumbent presidential candidate Grover Cleveland in the Electoral College even though Cleveland won the popular vote by a very narrow margin.
In 1876 Rutherford B. Hayes won a highly contentious, and still controversial, election over Samuel Tilden.
The only instance where neither the people nor the Electoral College decided the outcome of the presidential election was in 1824. Since neither John Quincy Adams nor Andrew Jackson received enough electoral votes to win the presidency, it was decided for the first and only time by the House of Representatives under the terms of the 12th Amendment. Again, read the Constitution!
John Quincy Adams was declared the winner of the 1824 election after a House of Representatives vote of 87 to 71. Andrew Jackson went on to win the 1828 presidential election and serve two terms.
Unfortunately, the majority of American do not understand the presidential election process in their own country. This is the cause of so much misunderstanding and misrepresentation of the Constitution and the Electoral College.
I offer this tutorial on the presidential election process as it is stated in the Constitution, and the history lesson, as a public service to all Americans.