A Few Surprises From the Electoral College

On Monday, the electoral college met to finalize what we already knew was a reality on the night of November 8, 2016: Donald Trump is going to be the 45th President of the United States.

Across the country, electors met to do their largely ceremonial job, as seen in the above picture of the proceedings in Maryland in 2012. Though the outcome was inevitable, Americans still watched the proceedings closely, hoping that electors might decide to buck the results of the vote in their states and select a different person for president of the United States, or refuse to give anyone 270 votes, thus forcing Congress to take up the matter.

Neither of those things happened, but some sparks did fly — mostly surrounding so-called “faithless electors.” And the people who defected and turned on their appointed candidates might surprise you: While some Americans hoped that Republican electors would refuse to validate Donald Trump, it was Secretary Hillary Clinton who watched electors turn their backs on her.

In Washington, three electors who were pledged to vote for Secretary Clinton instead opted to vote for Colin Powell, reflecting the hopes of some Americans that a block of electors could introduce a moderate Republican into the mix. Had the vote split, creating a situation where no one received enough votes to win, Congress would have chosen from among the top three vote getters — in a Trump/Clinton/Powell split, legislators, some hoped, would go for Powell.

Another voted for Faith Spotted Eagle, a Native American activist who has fought oil development on the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines.

The four electors also refused to endorse Senator Tim Kaine for the vice presidency, voting instead for Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Maria Cantwell, Senator Susan Collins, and Winona LaDuke.

In Texas, one Trump elector supported Representative Ron Paul instead, while another endorsed Governor John Kasich.

One of Hawaii’s four electors, meanwhile, successfully cast a ballot for Bernie Sanders.

But those were just the ballots successfully cast and accepted. Several other Clinton electors had a go at voting for alternate candidates, only to be rebuffed. One man in Maine tried to support Senator Bernie Sanders, and his ballot was rejected, forcing him to recast his vote. A Minnesota elector tried to do the same. In Colorado, another elector tried to vote for Kasich, but the ballot was also rejected. Several other electors who had declared their intent to defect were disqualified and replaced before the vote even began.

If this sounds like a lot of people protesting the election results, you should have been around in the 1800s, when electors repeatedly refused to support the candidates they were pledged to. In fairness, the 63 electors who didn’t vote for Horace Greely in 1872 had a pretty good excuse — the man was dead, and they didn’t want to support a deceased candidate, given the limited likelihood of his taking office in his posthumous state.

In 1832 and again in 1836, political sniping put the lists of faithless electors into the double digits.

And as recently as 2004, a faithless elector spoiled a ballot — but the Minnesota voter likely made a mistake, writing “John Ewards” on the ballot meant for John Kerry and John Edwards.

Once president-elect Donald Trump is inaugurated on January 20, efforts to abolish or reform the electoral college are likely to increase, as many — including the president-elect, once — feel the institution is outdated and unfair. Should those efforts succeed, a direct popular vote could be in America’s future.

Notably, while the president-elect received 304 electoral college votes, handily rising above the 270 threshold for victory, he only received about 63 million popular votes to Secretary Clinton’s nearly 66 million.

Photo credit: Maryland GovPics

87 comments

Marie W
Marie W1 years ago

Thanks for sharing!

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Chad A
Chad A1 years ago

The electoral college has outlived its usefulness and now just subverts even its original purpose.

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Onita Northington

I say get rid of the electoral college as quickly as possible. One person, one vote.

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ERIKA S
ERIKA SOMLAI1 years ago

noted

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Herbert C
Herbert C1 years ago

continued:
Ugly partisan politics, the only thing worse is when they work together. It would be hard to get rid of the electoral college but it may be easier to reform the congressional districts. There is also nothing that says a state's electoral votes have to be winner take all. No matter what you do you may not get the outcome you desire. Many of the trickiest and most well thought out schemes for amassing and retaining power fail in the end. The new system, like Frankenstein's monster, ends up hurting those who gave birth to it.

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Herbert C
Herbert C1 years ago

End the Electoral College and gerrymandering, is that all you want? To get rid of the electoral college you need a constitutional amendment, and that requires two-thirds of congress and 38 states to ratify it. Right now the Republicans control 32 state legislatures and 33 states have Republican governors, I don't believe they have much interest in doing away with the electoral college at this time. Most small state democrats would be very opposed to this as well. The Democrats are a decade or two away from making anything like this happen even if everything goes their way, and that's not likely. Gerrymandering is something both parties do but it's easier for the Republicans due to geography. Democratic voters tend to be more concentrated in urban areas and Republican strongholds are in the suburbs and rural areas. The only rule is the districts have to be contiguous, though some are rather oddly shaped. Redistricting is partisan but it's also done to aid incumbents. How about a bipartisan effort? If I'm an R and I wish to redistrict but I need your vote I come to you as a D who is vulnerable in the next election. We will redistrict in your favor if you go along, in fact, we'll give you plenty of voters that way we also waste extra D votes in an already decidedly D district. Politicians are just people like us and serve their own selfish interests first. Term limits have their pros and cons but might alleviate this problem somewhat. Ugly partisan politics, the only thing worse

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Julie D
Julie D1 years ago

The electoral college needs to be done away with. There is no need for it. I don't care how much double speak anyone makes in defense of it, it is not needed, and it is just another way of allowing another entity to decide the outcome of elections apart and aside from the popular vote, making our votes just about null void. We are not many countries, we are one country. One person one vote, winner by popular vote is the only fair way to have elections that equally represent everyone. Not individual states, but everyone. It doesn't matter if one state is more populated than another, everyone does not vote the same in either one. The winner should be chosen by the majority of the people of this country as a whole. Which means one person, one vote, the only fair way that every person is allowed to have an equal vote. No gerrymandering no districting and redistricting, no delegates, no super delegates, no electoral college. All of these are just ways of controlling and corrupting the voting outcomes. One person, one vote, winner by popular vote, totally fair, totally equal, perfectly simple and accurate representation of the people of this country as a whole.

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ERIKA S
ERIKA SOMLAI1 years ago

noted

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Siyus C
Siyus Copetallus1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Herbert C
Herbert C1 years ago

The idea that the so-called "Hamilton electors" should or could vote for someone other than the candidate they were pledged to was never a real thing. Yes legally in most states they can vote for someone else but it would be a bad precedent if they voted for another Republican or even worse elected Clinton. How could you complain about the system being undemocratic when you are asking 538 people to override the election? Once that barrier has been broken, once the electors can actually make the choice for us, it would become easier to do it again, and in ways that will not always benefit those that wanted it this time.

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