Imagine that Donald Trump wins the popular vote in the November Presidential election.
After your hyperventilating stops, remember that he must then win the majority vote of the Electoral College. Yeah, THAT college. Often maligned as un-democratic, it was created to be exactly that – a final check on the will of the people. It was also one of many compromises negotiated between the State delegations at the Constitutional Convention of 1787,
Back then, some States wanted the President elected through a popular national vote while others wanted the President elected by Congress. As a compromise, the Framers created the Electoral College. In this final step to electing the next President, the Constitution grants each State the same number of Electors as they have members of Congress. These Electors then cast their votes for President after the November popular election. The Electoral College remains the only “checks and balances” that State legislatures have over who might become President.
Each State legislature determines how their Electors are appointed. Twenty-Six States and the District of Columbia have laws or party pledges that bind how Electors vote. Twenty-Four States have no restrictions on how their Electors vote.
In our own State, the following section from the South Carolina Code of Laws defines how Electors should vote. Pay close attention to the last sentence.
SECTION 7-19-80. Candidate for elector shall declare for which candidates he will vote; elector shall vote for candidates for whom he declared.
Each candidate for presidential and vice-presidential elector shall declare which candidate for president and vice-president he will vote for if elected. Those elected shall vote for the president and vice-president candidates for whom they declared. Any person selected to fill a vacancy in the electoral college shall vote for the candidates the elector whose place he is taking had declared for. The declaration shall be made to the Secretary of State on such form as he may require not later than sixty days prior to the general election for electors. No candidate for president and vice-president elector shall have his name placed on the ballot who fails to make such declaration by the prescribed time. Any elector who votes contrary to the provisions of this section shall be deemed guilty of violating the election laws of this State and upon conviction shall be punished according to law. Any registered elector shall have the right to institute proper action to require compliance with the provisions of this section. The Attorney General shall institute criminal action for any violation of the provision of this section. Provided, the executive committee of the party from which an elector of the electoral college was elected may relieve the elector from the obligation to vote for a specific candidate when, in its judgment, circumstances shall have arisen which, in the opinion of the committee, it would not be in the best interest of the State for the elector to cast his ballot for such a candidate.
I thought it disturbing that our General Assembly grants the executive committee of a political party more power than the majority of South Carolina voters to determine how we vote in the Electoral College. Some may argue that this sentence merely gives the political party an option should a candidate become incapacitated but the phrasing does not support that argument.
North Carolina’s code of laws does not give power to the executive committee of any political party to waive the duty of an Elector to vote for the winning Presidential candidate of that party’s primary should he win the general election. Georgia’s code of laws does even not require Electors to vote for a specific candidate. Alabama’s code of laws references the possibility of a tie vote cast by Electors and gives their Governor the authority to choose between the two candidates.
Trump won South Carolina’s Republican Presidential primary without the endorsement of any member of our Congressional Delegation or Governor. If he wins the popular vote in November, will our nationally known Republican elected officials pressure the state Republican Party Executive Committee to relieve the Republican Electors from voting for Trump?
Given the unprecedented hysteria directed at Trump from all parts of the “news media/political party establishment axis” – both left and right – we should assume that Republican Electors will feel pressure in every Republican leaning State.
I have not endorsed any Presidential candidate. Trump’s easy ability to pivot from one side to another on any given position disturbs me. While disturbed at Trump, I am frightened of the tyranny of the establishment axis. They accuse Trump of being what many of them actually are – manipulators of the truth and idealogical frauds.