What is the job of Electors?
The Electoral College is a process, not a place. The founding fathers established it in the Constitution as a compromise between election of the President by a vote in Congress and election of the President by a popular vote of qualified citizens.
If U.S. citizens today think of the electoral college at all, it's as a rubber stamp for each state's popular vote — a stamp that gives extra power to less populous states' voters. This occurs because some states require, perhaps without the Constitutional right, that elector folks vote the popular vote of the state they represent. This leads to "Winner Take All" allotment of a state's electors. Only Maine and Nebraska have proportional representation.
Originally, the electoral college's function was to select statesmen who would rise above petty politics, who would safeguard the enduring interests of the republic.
One goal of having electors was to stop demagogues and bullies from becoming President. .
Alexander Hamilton described the framers' view of how electors would be chosen, "A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be mos. t likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated [tasks].""Winner Take All" is not what the founders envisioned.
Hamilton explained the election was to take place among all the states, so no corruption in any state could taint "the great body of the people" in their selection. The founders assumed this would take place district by district. That plan was carried out by many states until the 1880s. For example, in Massachusetts in 1820, the rule stated "the people shall vote by ballot, on which shall be designated who is voted for as an Elector for the district." In other words, the people did not place the name of a candidate for a president on the ballot. Instead they voted for their local elector, whom they trusted later to cast a responsible vote for president.
Currently, voters vote for candidates by name, rather than for electors (whose names may or may not appear on the ballot). Are there Constitutional questions connected to this change?
Are the requirements made by most states with regard to pledged electors Constitutional? The Supreme Court has not ruled on whether pledges or penalties for failure of an elector to vote as pledged may be enforced by the Constitution. No Elector has every been prosecuted for failing to vote as pledged.
Does "Winner Take All" meet the standard of the 14th Amendment? Does "Winner Take All" violate the Constitution's requirement of One person one vote?
Lawrence Lessig of Harvard Law School has argued that The Electoral College Is Constitutionally Allowed to Choose Clinton over Trump: "They could vote the way a significant proportion of their state did. Look, in Michigan, if Donald Trump is found to be the winner by some 10,000 votes out of four-and-a-half million cast, what the Michigan electors could say is, "OK, I'm going to vote in a way that reflects Michigan." So, half of Michigan was essentially for Clinton, half was essentially for Trump—maybe one more for Trump than for Clinton. That division goes against the laws of the state of Michigan that say they have to allocate the electors' votes to the winner—all the electors' votes to the winner. But my point is—and this is now increasingly uncontested among constitutional scholars—winner take all does not exist in the Constitution. It's a restriction imposed on the electors by the states. And if you think that the electors are, as Hamilton described them, people who are supposed to exercise judgment, that restriction is the flaw which ought to be resisted. So they should vote reflecting the votes of the people in their state."
Lessig has also urged State Attorney Generals to go to the Supreme Court to argue that their voters are being denied the right to their Constitutional Right to "one person-one vote" as guaranteed in the 14th Amendment, by the current procedures of the Electoral College ("pledged Electors" and "Winner Take All" electoral vote) which are not part of the Constitution.
Today, Ten Electoral College electors have asked U.S. intelligence officials for more information on ongoing investigations surrounding President-elect Donald Trump's relationship with Russia.
The group of electors, which includes the daughter of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), wrote an open letter to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper asking for the information ahead of their Dec. 19 meeting to formally vote for the next president.
"The Electors require to know from the intelligence community whether there are ongoing investigations into ties between Donald Trump, his campaign or associates, and Russian government interference in the election, the scope of those investigations, how far those investigations may have reached, and who was involved in those investigations," the letter read. "We further require a briefing on all investigative findings, as these matters directly impact the core factors in our deliberations of whether Mr. Trump is fit to serve as President of the United States."
Nine Democrats and one Republican signed the letter. The Republican, Christopher Suprun, has said that he won't vote for Trump when the Electoral College meets.
The Monday letter comes three days after The Washington Post reported that the CIA believes Russian hackers obtained and released, via WikiLeaks, Democratic National Committee emails to sway the election for Trump.
"Mr. Franklin, what kind of government have you given us?" a woman asked the eminent Founding Father at the end of the Constitutional Convention in 1787. "A Republic, madam," Franklin quickly answered. "If you can keep it."f Franklin was worried about our Republic back then, we need to be equally worried about the state of our nation state right now.
The state of constitutional anxiety – or worse – that we are facing right now comes in two parts:
1. Most obvious is the first part, where the winner of the popular vote, by more than 2.8 million votes and a 2% victory margin, winds up as the loser in our electoral system.
2. The second part is the realization that the vote was manipulated by the presence of the Kremlin and its intelligence agencies, led by former KGB colonel Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, in their hacking of the Democratic National Committee and affiliated websites. This issue of whether the vote was manipulated also connects to questions of the relationship between Russia and the Republican candidate, and Russia and members of his inner circle.
Paul Manafort, then Trump's campaign manager, was forced to resign because he was a paid lobbyist for Russian leaning groups in the Ukraine, Mike Flynn, proposed to head National Security, has close ties to Russia, has appeared on the Kremlin's RT network and has visited with Putin several times in prominent Russian events. In August, in the heart of the Trump's campaign's busiest hours, Ivanka Trump flew to Croatia to visit with Wendy Deng Murdoch (Rupert Murdoch's ex-wife who is now Putin's girlfriend). Now, Rex Tillerson is suddently the head of Exxon, and Trump's choice for Secretary of State. Tillerson has a long-documented relationship with Putin and received the Order of Friendship medal from Putin himself this year." Friends and associates have said few U.S. citizens are closer to Mr. Putin than Mr. Tillerson," the Wall Street Journal reported.
Trump himself has basked in Putin's praise, praised the Russian former KGB operative as "more of a leader than Obama," and supported Russian foreign policy with regard to Syria and NATO. He shocked the world when he urged Russia to hack into Hillary's emails- "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing." He has further said he would be :looking at ...recongnizing Crimea as a "Russian territory."
This discussion about Trump and Russian interference with the Election brings us to one further role that the founders envisioned for the Electors - to prevent "the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union?" (Alexander Hamilton, March 14, 1778 -- Federalist #68).
What can we do? They vote on December 19.Write to the electors. http://asktheelectors.org/
On the page linked to above, scroll down and click on "Voice Your Concerns" and fill in your name, city and state, and whatever you want to say to them. It's not a form petition. It can be as short as "Please don't vote for Trump" or "Please cast your vote for anyone but Trump" or whatever longer message you want to write. If you like, you can get ideas from other messages posted on the site.
After you've registered your opposition on the site, you have the option of sending your message directly to the Electors. You just click "Copy" next to the box containing their addresses and paste into your "TO" line; and then "Copy" again next to the box containing your message and paste it into the body of your e-mail.
The issues you may want to mention are:
1.Whether or not the Electors should be "Winner Take All"? is that Constitutional? Are pledged votes by electors Constitutional? Does the Constitution require their right to independent decision by an elector?
2. Treason is the only crime defined by the Constitution. Did the Republican candidate conspire with a foreign government to manipulate our election?
You choose whether you just want to send the message, or also have it posted on the site.
December 13, 2016
*the phrase is from Charles Blow.
* Charles Blow, December 12, 2016