Electoral College: No ‘Trump’ card for Hillary?
- January 9, 2017
- Posted by: admin
- Category: General Knowledge
Ever since Republican party candidate Donald Trump became the President-elect after winning the popular vote against Democrat Hillary Clinton on November 8, there have been mixed reactions. That the result was shocking for most is no secret. It was similar to the result of the Brexit referendum, when Britain voted to leave the European Union (EU) by majority. And much like Brexit, there was a last ditch hope that the election of Trump may be annulled effectively if the electoral college, in its vote of December 19, 2016, votes against Trump. All the debate around the possibilities of the electoral college voting otherwise, however, were laid to rest in the meeting of the electoral college this week. Trump was elected in what has been a mere formality for a long time now.
The way the electoral college works is this: There are 538 people in the Electoral College in the US- each state has an elector for every congressman it has, and there are 3 electors for D.C. While 270 votes were needed for victory in the popular vote, Trump won with 306 electoral votes- winning the popular vote in 30 states, plus 1 of Maine’s districts (which, along with Nebraska, splits up its electors by district). Interestingly, Hillary Clinton won almost 2.5 million more votes than Trump’s overall tally by virtue of the fact that she carried population-heavy states like California and New York. However, she only won the popular vote in 19 states and D.C. – taking her tally to 232 electoral votes.
The legal possibility of the electoral college voting against Trump or overturning the result of the November 8 election was an ambiguous one, even to begin with. While constitutionalists stated that electors in the Electoral College could choose to vote for whichever candidate they wanted, it must be noted that 30 states have Supreme Court-upheld laws mandating the electors to vote in consonance with how their state voted. Penalties for becoming a faithless elector range from paying a fine to being replaced with an elector who will follow the rules. The constitutionality of enforcing the aforementioned laws has never been tested, however. Notably, members of the Electoral College who vote against these state laws and contrary to the voting carried out by their states are labeled “faithless electors” in common parlance. There have been less than 10 faithless electors since 1900, so the chances of this happening for the current election were anyway slim.
Moreover, only electors from the party that won the popular vote get to cast their ballots, so only Republican electors got the chance to vote in the states that Trump won, and only Democratic electors in the states won by Clinton. This meant that the number of electors required to change their minds to flip the result in Clinton’s favour was a lot many anyway. Another factor that was against the overturning of results by the electoral college was the fact that electors are usually vetted carefully and then selected by the political parties in each state to ensure that they stay loyal to the party. Because at least 290 electors voting in December were Republicans, people wanting the vote to be in favour of Clinton would have had to convince this sizeable number to abandon their party. Even so, members of Congress can formally protest any “faithless” elector votes, and have them evicted, when they officially count the ballots in a joint session on January 6, 2017.
At a time when the world is grappling with the true meaning of democracy and the implementation of electoral reforms, the elimination of the electoral college from the system has also been proposed by many stakeholders, but the Congress has not acted on this proposal since 1979. Whether this electoral college should be eliminated or not is a bigger question, but what definitely needs to be discussed is the efficacy of the electoral college in its present form and its interplay vis-à-vis popular will in an election.