Americans challenge Electoral College after political upset

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Students saddened by Hillary Clinton’s loss in the general election have found hope in an online petition circulating the internet.

The petition, titled “Electoral College: Make Hillary Clinton President on December 19,” is asking the Electoral College to cast their votes in favor of Clinton instead of President-elect Donald Trump.

On Dec. 14, electors in each state will submit votes that get mailed to Congress. If electors were to go against the majority vote of their state, they would be breaking pledges to their political party – and in some states, breaking the law. A few states also have the ability to immediately nullify and replace the vote of a “faithless elector.”

Two hundred and seventy electoral votes,  the majority of electoral votes, are needed to clinch the presidency. Despite winning the popular vote nationwide, Clinton lost the election because she was unable to obtain the necessary number of electoral votes. Trump finished with 290.

Alexis McDonald, a senior and electronic media major, signed the petition after being “shocked” that Trump won the election without the popular vote.

“It doesn’t really represent the people, even though it’s supposed to,” McDonald said. “If Donald Trump would’ve won the popular vote then it would have made sense, but the fact that he didn’t and Hillary did is causing us to question: ‘Is the Electoral College even worth having?’”

The Electoral College is composed of 538 United States citizens nominated by their state legislatures to elect the president weeks after the general election.

The process of electing presidents and vice presidents is outlined in the U.S. Constitution. According to the 12th Amendment, each state is allocated one elector per House of Representative member and per state Senator.

Electors are vetted to ensure that they are committed to voting in favor of their party’s candidate if they win the plurality vote in the Electoral College. Electors then pledge their vote for the party’s candidate.

Often, these electors are selected based on their participation and loyalty to the party. This could include state party officials, state officeholders or community members with strong personal ties to the party.

This process is supposed to deter electors from voting against their state’s vote. However, there is still a lack of enforcement to ensure that electors vote in favor of the candidate who “won” their state.

“Faithless” electors are uncommon and have never changed the outcome of the original result. Since the founding of the Electoral College system, there have been 82 faithless electors that have changed their vote based on personal incentive.

Most recently, in 2004, an elector from Minnesota who had pledged a vote for then-Senator John Kerry voted instead for Kerry’s vice presidential pick, former Senator John Edwards for president.

The new Clinton petition, found on change.org, has amassed more than four million electronic signatures since it was made on Nov. 9. Although Democrats around the nation have expressed outrage over the results of the election and place blame on the Electoral College system, UM Associate Professor of political science Gregory Koger said the Electoral College is a flawed but valid system.

“It’s legitimate in the sense that these are not rules that have been designed to cheat anyone out of this particular election,” said Koger, who teaches a course on the American presidency. “They are the longstanding rules of the game and everyone knows what those are.”

Clinton won the popular vote by more than one million votes nationwide, however, she only obtained 232 electoral votes. This was an unforeseen ending to an untraditional election season as polls around the nation had Clinton’s probability of defeating Trump in the high 80s up until election night.

However, Clinton is not the first Democratic nominee to lose despite receiving the popular vote. In 2000, former President George W. Bush defeated his Democratic opponent, Al Gore, in the Electoral College, despite Gore receiving 0.51 percent more votes nationwide.

Although the odds of the petition’s success are slim to none, members of Congress have previously attempted to amend the Constitution to abolish the Electoral College system.

Most recently, California Senator Barbara Boxer submitted a proposal to eliminate the Electoral College that would need both the approval of Congress and three-fourths of the states. It is unlikely that the proposal will pass as states, particularly smaller states, would lose power in electing the president.

Rebecca Garcia, a senior and international studies major who signed the petition for electors to vote for Clinton, said she normally doesn’t believe in appeals, but the outcomes of elections like 2000 and 2016 are results of outdated procedures.

“The founding fathers put it in place so we have responsibly-held elections, but this is back in 1787 when the Constitution was adopted,” Garcia said. “We are living in the 21st century, 2016, and Hillary, unfortunately, was the victim of a system that did not elect her, but the people did.”

According to Koger, “99 percent of electors” vote in favor of who they are supposed to.

“If there was ever going to be a situation where presidential electors defy their party expectation, it would be this one, but I don’t expect it,” Koger said.

Garcia said she understands both the chances of amending the Constitution to modify the Electoral College system and electors voting Clinton into office instead of Trump are slim. However, she said it was still important to try.

“If you don’t try, you’ll never see it happen. Always take the risks,” she said.

 

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