Publicado el 10-29-2012
The U.S. Presidency
and the Electoral College
One week away from the general election, with thousands of votes already cast in early voting, the race for the presidency of the republic seems to be in a tie. In this editorial we will briefly explain what is the process established by the U.S. Constitution to elect the president and vice president.
According to the system established by Sections 2 and 3 of Article II of the Constitution, the votes of the Electoral College determine who wins the presidency regardless of the number of direct votes for that candidate. Each State appoints, in the manner directed by its legislature, a number of electors, that is equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives that the state has in Congress, but no senator or representative can be appointed elector.
Two hundred and seventy votes are required to reach a majority in the Electoral College. There have been two elections in which no candidate received the majority of the electoral vote. This happened in the years 1824 and 1876. The Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution, implemented in 1804, requires that electors cast separate ballots for president and vice president. When a presidential candidate does not achieve a majority of the electoral vote, the House of Representatives selects the president; the same thing happens with the vice president, but in his case, the vice president is chosen by the Senate.
Where it is not required by law, it is customary for all of the state’s electors to vote for the candidate receiving a plurality of the popular vote in that state, that is why the popular or direct vote is so important. However, it might happen – and it indeed has happened three times in the two hundred and thirty-six years of life of the nation – that a candidate has lost the popular vote but has won by the Electoral College vote.
The presidential electors chosen by the voters in November meet in their state capitals on the first Monday after the Second Wednesday in December to cast their vote for president and vice president. The results of this balloting are sent to the president of the U.S. Senate, the directors of the U.S. General Services Administration, the state’s secretary of state, and to the judge of the Federal District Court of the district in which the electors gathered. Sealed state ballots are opened and counted at a joint session of Congress on January 6 following the election year. This time it will be on January 6, 2013.