On being an elector in 2016

This has been electors2016an interesting year to be a member of the Electoral College. As with everything that I do, I spent a significant amount of time researching our role. Of course, had Hillary Clinton won the election, all that research would have gone to waste 🙂

I’ve written a couple of op-eds (1, 2) about the EC because it seems the institution is a complete mystery to so many. When I announced on my Facebook page back on 5/14 that I had been chosen as an elector, I got a lot of congratulations – promptly followed by messages, emails and phone calls asking me what an elector was!

In my op-eds, I tried to outline some of the options that are available to deal with this part of elections system. It’s quite easy to say it should be abolished but actually getting that done seems remote. I’m frustrated with so many – including elected officials who should know better – calling for reform of the system NOW, instead of at some point in the last 16 years. After the 2000 election, in which Al Gore won the popular vote but George Bush won the EC, those who represent us should have led the charge to fix it. It is impossible to change the rules of an election AFTER the election. We can only change them for elections going forward.

The irresponsibility of those with the loudest voices has made things even worse. Instead of channeling voter frustration into constructive action, they have presented pie-in-the-sky options that are ludicrous. Delay the EC vote? Only if Congress changes the law between now and Monday. An intelligence briefing before Monday? Sure – it’s an easy thing to vet 538 people for security clearances.

And then there are the various sites that have set up the ability to email the electors. I can’t count the number of emails I’ve gotten, urging me to “honor the popular vote.” (Another came in as I was typing this!) Um, that is EXACTLY what I’m doing! Hillary Clinton won Virginia! The electors shown in the picture in this post are all Democrats. How hard would it have been for these sites to eliminate from the list of electors those in Clinton-won states? After all, with the exception of the so-called “Hamilton Electors,” we are voting for Hillary. The emails should be going to Republican electors, not Democrats. (One email I received this morning actually asked me to NOT vote for Donald Trump. Um, you didn’t need to ask!)

The idea behind the “Hamilton Electors” (to vote for a moderate Republican instead of Trump) would make perfect sense – if they were a mostly Republican group of electors. They are not. They are mostly Democrats. Only one Republican elector has said he will not vote for Trump. ONE. This is the same one who appears on the list of electors calling for an intelligence briefing. If the goal is to get Republicans to vote for someone other than Trump (not even Clinton!), then it has failed miserably. The largest number of electors to cast votes of conscience (I will not call them “faithless”) in any election has been six. Thirty-seven Republican electors would have to cast a vote for a candidate other than Trump to deny him the 270 votes. But that only pushes the decision to the House of Representatives. Raise your hand if you think they would choose someone other than Trump.

Look, I get it. Clinton didn’t win. I’m as heartbroken as anyone. But I’m angry that the public is being misled on the possibility that Trump will not be president if – with some combination of magic and fairy dust – the EC votes differently. It ain’t happening.

I’m voting for Hillary Clinton. Not only am I bound to vote for her, I’m doing so because she was the most qualified candidate in the race. And then I’m getting to work to change the process by which EC votes are allocated. The National Popular Vote project may be where I end up – but I am certainly going to do my part to defeat the proposal already introduced in the General Assembly that would allocate the votes by the already gerrymandered Congressional Districts. I hope Democrats – some of whom pay lots of attention to national issues but little to state ones (how about NC last night?) – will join me.


One of the coolest sites I ran across in my research was 270ToWin. It has this interesting interactive for you to see how the 2012 EC results would have been different had methods other than winner-take-all (used in 49 jurisdictions) been in effect. I found it fascinating to see the optimal results for Democrats and Republicans. Look for yourself – the answer may surprise you.

2 thoughts on “On being an elector in 2016

  1. Well said Vivian. A Constitutional Amendment which deletes the provisions regarding the Electoral College requires political courage and sustained attention. The most dangerous “reform” is the gerrymandering of the electoral college by allocating votes per Congressional district as already occurs in Maine and Nebraska. It must not happen in Virginia or anywhere else.

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