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United States Government Politics

Barack Obama Is One Step Closer To Being President 601

At 3:00 Eastern time on Monday Dec. 15, 538 electors in state capitols across the US cast the votes that actually elected Barack Obama the 44th President. Obama received, unofficially, 365 electoral votes (with 270 needed to win). The exact total will not be official — or Obama officially elected — until Congress certifies the count of electoral votes in a joint session on Jan. 6, 2009. The Electoral College was established in its present form in 1804 by the Twelfth Amendment to the US Constitution. Electors are not required to vote for the candidate who won their state — in fact, 24 states make it a criminal offense to vote otherwise, but no "faithless elector" has ever been charged with a crime. "On 158 occasions, electors have cast their votes for President or Vice President in a manner different from that prescribed by the legislature of the state they represented. Of those, 71 votes were changed because the original candidate died before the elector was able to cast a vote. Two votes were not cast at all when electors chose to abstain from casting their electoral vote for any candidate. The remaining 85 were changed by the elector's personal interest, or perhaps by accident. Usually, the faithless electors act alone. An exception was in 1836 when 23 Virginia electors changed their vote together. ... To date, faithless electors have never changed the otherwise expected outcome of the election."
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Barack Obama Is One Step Closer To Being President

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  • So.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @09:11AM (#26131435)

    What your saying is that McCain has an outside shot?

    • Re:So.. (Score:5, Funny)

      by 4D6963 ( 933028 ) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @09:19AM (#26131489)

      What your saying is that McCain has an outside shot?

      Nope, but Sarah Palin does, from her helicopter. She can see the Congress from up there. And shoot any wolves that come near. And by wolves I mean electors.

      • Re:So.. (Score:5, Informative)

        by hey! ( 33014 ) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @10:51AM (#26132509) Homepage Journal

        Speaking of Palin, the electoral college actually casts two votes: one for the office of the Presidency, the other for the Vice-Presidency.

        It is therefore possible for faithless electors to mix and match parties. The could elect an Obama/Palin administration, or a McCain/Biden one.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by fm6 ( 162816 )

          Don't even think about it. The thought of miss Africa-is-too-a-country being anywhere near the line of succession gives me the willies. Fortunately, that's not going to happen. Her destiny is the same as that for all opinionated idiots who run past their 15 minutes — cable TV pundit.

          But you know, it's not really correct to say that Obama got elected yesterday. The ballots were cast, but they don't get counted until January 5. And you know who the Constitution designates to count these ballots? The VP,

  • by XxtraLarGe ( 551297 ) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @09:17AM (#26131475) Journal
    Lots was made about Sarah Palin being on the Republican ticket. In 1972, Roger MacBride--a faithless Republican elector from Virginia--decided that he could not in good conscience vote for Nixon. He cast his vote for John Hospers & Tonie Nathan on the Libertarian ticket, marking the first time a woman had ever received an electoral vote.
    • by jcr ( 53032 ) <> on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @09:27AM (#26131573) Journal

      he could not in good conscience vote for Nixon.

      That's why I've never like the term "faithless" elector. The way the electoral college is supposed to work, is that we should know who our electors are, and they should be people we trust to make the best choice they can.


      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Neoprofin ( 871029 )
        That's why I don't like that it's a crime to vote against your states popular vote, and that the winning party gets to choose the electors. I think it'd be a lot more interesting around here with a shadow council picking leaders.
      • by qazwart ( 261667 ) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @12:13PM (#26133409) Homepage

        Actually, the way the Electoral College was suppose to work was changed back after our fourth election for POTUS. Jefferson (the presidential candidate) and Burr (the *VICE* presidential candidate) both got the same number of electoral votes. This happened because the wisdom of our founding fathers dictated that each elector got TWO votes for president. The second place finisher was suppose to be vice president. This was the first campaign where the election of president was actually contested, and the results led to the creation of our first two party system with Federalists and Republicans (who later became known as the Democratic Republicans and even later as Democrats).

        Since all of the Republican electors chose both Jefferson and Burr, they were tied in the Electoral College. Officially, Burr should have stepped aside and let Jefferson be president. However, Federalists convinced Burr not to drop out, and the vote went to the House where after 30 ballots, there was still no decision. Hamilton -- a Federalist -- convinced Federalist House members that not respecting the outcome of the election was probably more damaging to the Republic than allowing an "atheist" like Jefferson as President.

        The whole Electoral College system came about because we didn't have universal suffrage in this country. In Virginia, the most populous state, only White males with the largest land holdings could vote while in Pennsylvania, almost all freemen were allowed to vote. Allowing a direct vote for President would mean that smaller Pennsylvania would have two to three times the voting power of Virginia.

        The Constitutional Convention tried to come up with tax and landholding requirements for voting, but failed. Plus, there was disagreement about how slaves should affect a state's voting power for the office. The Electoral College was a punt. The Constitution didn't even bother to specify how electors would be chosen.

        They did give each elector the ability to have two votes for President, so they could choose one local guy and one guy who wasn't a resident of that state. This was done because when you only have a very small select group of men voting, their was fear that there would be a lot of political hanky-panky and vote trading. Allowing the electors an outlet to cast a spurious vote for a local political bigwig was a way of venting this political horse trading. After all, what was the worse that could happen?

        In the first three elections, all electors were chosen by the voters, and the electors were chosen by districts. This was how the election was envisioned to happen by our founding fathers. However, when Adams ran against Jefferson, states started mucking up the rules. In New York, the way electors were chosen was changed from election (which would allow the Republicans to get some electors) to having the legislature choose them (to guarantee all electors would be Federalists). When the Federalists lost the legislature, the outgoing legislature changed the rules to allow the Governor to choose them instead of the Republican dominated incoming legislature.

        Election shenanigans wasn't a Federalist monopoly. Almost all states changed the way electors were chosen in order to satisfy the dominant political party. It was the first time states used a winner takes all method of selecting electors. A method that is still with us today, and probably not something the original writers of the Constitution imagined would happen.

        Today, the United States is one of the few presidential republics that don't allow direct election of their president. Historically, electoral colleges were used to keep the powers in power. It was the way Indonesia used to keep Suharto in power and it is currently used in Hong Kong to keep democracy advocates at bay. It's a great way to make sure that you can remain in power when you don't have popular support.

        The Electoral College in the U.S. lost its initial purpose with the election of Andrew Jackson which started a period of universal suffrage when property and

  • Seriously, could we get any more fawning over President-elect Obama? I don't recall Slashdot carrying this level of minutiae for either of the prior Bush terms.

  • There are instances in history where the electoral college went against the will of the people. This would be news in that instance. Otherwise it's just business as usual.
    • Maybe, but it was never against the will of the states. Clinton wasn't elected with the will of the people, either - he never got 50%+1.
  • What is the Constitutional process if a terrorist took out Obama and Biden before the inauguration?

    Would there have to be a special election?
    Would Bush/Cheney stay in office until ....?

    The Speaker becomes President only a sitting President and VP are taken out?

    Is this documented anywhere?

    BTW, my question in no way hopes that such an event occur.

    • by lwsimon ( 724555 )

      If it is before inauguration, Congress would choose the next President. It would likely be Hillary in that case, possibly with a dose of Pelosi.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Rub1cnt ( 1159069 )
      believe me, if you don't like the present situation, remember, it gets worse as you go up the chain of replacements. You've got a person who can strategically do the least harm atm, let's keep it that way..
  • In 1972, Tonie Nathan [] became the first woman to receive an Electoral College vote (for Vice President).

    She was the 1972 Libertarian VP candidate, on the ticket with John Hospers. Roger MacBride, a "faithless" Republican elector from Virginia, refused to vote for Richard Nixon, and cast the vote for Hospers and Nathan.

  • What? Did I miss hearing about that campaign promise? Do we get to choose? (I wouldn't mind a new Madone, Barack.)

Help! I'm trapped in a PDP 11/70!