Steve Jessup, believed to be the first Republican Presidential Elector from Navarro County, cast his electoral vote at the Electoral College meeting in Austin, Texas Monday, Dec. 17.
Jessup was chosen at the U.S. Congressional District 6 caucus (which includes Ellis County) during the Republican Party Of Texas state convention in Fort Worth last June.
He signed the party’s affidavit pledging “to vote for the Republican Party nominees for President and Vice President at the meeting of Presidential Electors.”
The responsibilities of Electors are described in the U.S. Constitution Article II and Amendment XII.
Jessup’s constitutional duty did not become official until the Nov. 6 General Election results showed that the Republican ticket of Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan had won Texas by 57.16 percent.
He met with the other 37 Presidential Electors inside the Texas House Chamber at the State Capitol. Texas has 36 U.S. Congressional Districts plus two U.S. Senators at-large for a total of 38 electoral votes
However, the Democrat team of Barack Obama/Joe Biden won the General Election nationally, by garnering 303 electoral votes, compared to 226 for Romney/Ryan.
Yet, in Navarro County and statewide, Republicans had done well.
“We are all disappointed with the Nov. 6 Presidential Election national results,” said Jessup, “and it would be more satisfying for me at the Electoral College if the Republican ticket had won. At least Texas remained a ‘red state’ and I have pledged to vote the will of the electorate: Republican Party nominees – Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.”
In performing research on the subject, Jessup agrees with the foresight of our founding fathers in creating the Electoral College and has fielded several questions about the process. Below are his responses to several frequently asked questions.
What is the Electoral College?
When Americans vote for a President and Vice President, they actually vote for presidential electors, known collectively as the Electoral College, whom gather after the general election to decide the chief executive their state supports.
The electors are nominated by a political party and pledged to support the candidates of that party. While the Presidential winner may be declared on election night, it is not official until the electors cast their ballots.
Why was it formed?
The Electoral College refers not to an educational institution, but a collection of people having a common purpose or duty.
The Constitutional Convention of 1787 considered several methods of electing the President, including: selection by Congress, by the governors of the states, by the state legislators, by a special Congressional Committee, and by direct popular elections. The plan incorporated in the Constitution sought to reconcile differing state and federal interests, provide a degree of popular vote participation in the election, give the less populous states some additional leverage in the process, and preserve the presidency as independent of Congress for election and re-election.
The Constitution gave each state a number of electors equal to the combined total of its U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives membership (Article II).
When political parties evolved, the original method of electing the President and Vice President proved unworkable (because they could be members of two different political parties), so it was replaced by the 12th Amendment, ratified just before the 1804 election, which is the current method.
Later, the 23rd Amendment awarded the District of Columbia three electoral votes, bringing the total to 538, requiring 270 to win.
How are electors chosen?
The Constitution Article II Section 1 states “no Senator or Representative or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.”
A very conservative interpretation disqualifies all federal elected officeholders, federal employees, federal board or federal commission members, and active duty military and reserves. The Constitution leaves the selection of electors to the states and political parties.
Obviously, electors must be qualified voters and loyal to their party.
Most states prescribe one of two methods: (a.) in 34 states, candidates for Presidential Electors are nominated by state party conventions, such as Texas, while (b.) in 10 states nominate them from the state party’s central committee. The remainder of states use a variety of methods, including nomination by the governor, by primary election ballot, and by the party’s presidential nominee.
No Constitutional provision or Federal law requires electors to vote in accordance with the popular vote in their states, rather they are functionary agents of the state and accountable to state laws.
The founding fathers regarded the electors as independent, yet since the first Constitutional decade, electors are expected to vote for the candidates of the party that nominated them.
Nevertheless, individual electors have sometimes broken their commitment, voting for a different candidate or candidates than those they have been pledged. “Faithless” electors have been few in number, but have never influenced the outcome of a presidential election.
How does the Electoral College process work?
On the first Monday after the second Wednesday of December (Dec. 17, 2012), the electors gather – usually in their respective state capitals – to cast their votes.
The United States Code Chapter 1 of Title 3 describes the details of the process.
Most states’ electors cast their ballots for the presidential candidate who won the popular vote of their state (winner-take-all), except Maine and Nebraska account for the vote outcome in each of their congressional districts, plus two statewide Senate votes, which may split their electoral votes.
The electors sign six “Certificates of Vote,” containing two distinct lists for votes for the President and votes for the Vice President, paired with a “Certificate of Ascertainment.”
One pair of original Certificates is sent to the President of the Senate (Joe Biden). Two pairs are sent to the National Archivist. Two pairs are sent to the Secretary of State of their respective states. One pair is sent to the Chief Justice of the Federal District Court located where the electors meet. The certificates are sent via registered mail. The electors then adjourn, and the Electoral College ceases to exist until the next presidential election.
On Jan. 6, 2013, the new Congress meets in joint session to count the electoral votes.
The President of the Senate is the presiding officer. The President and the Vice President must achieve a majority of electoral votes (270) to be elected. Any objections to an electoral vote must be made in writing and signed by at least one Senator and one member of the House Of Representatives.
In the absence of a majority, the U.S. House selects the President and the U.S. Senate selects the Vice President per Amendment XII. In this event, the House is limited to choosing from the three Presidential candidates whom received the highest number of electoral votes.
Each House state delegation votes en bloc, where its members have a single vote collectively (District of Columbia does not receive a vote). A candidate must receive an absolute majority of state delegation votes (26) in order for that candidate to become President-elect.
Additionally, delegations from at least two-thirds of all the states must be present for the voting to take place. Similarly in the Senate, the Vice Presidential candidate must receive an absolute majority of votes with a two-thirds quorum of the total number of Senators, where there are no VP tie breaker votes.
What can happen?
It is possible that the Presidential candidate could win the popular vote, but lose the electoral vote. This occurred in 1876, 1888, and most recently in Year 2000.
Why keep the Electoral College?
Critics of the Electoral College claim that such outcomes do not reflect logical democracy (national popular vote is irrelevant), focuses upon large swing states, focuses on less populous states, discourages turnout and participation by disenfranchising voters, and discourages third parties.
These are reasons to support the Electoral College:
• Prevents a candidate from winning the Presidency by simply winning in heavily populated urban areas.
• Maintains the federal character of the nation, consisting of component states. Each state has the freedom, within constitutional bounds, to design its own laws on voting.
• Enhances status of minority groups to impact the ‘winner-take-all’ election of their state. Candidates must court a wide variety of minorities and advocacy groups.
• Encourages stability through the two-party system during rapid political and cultural change.
• Has the capacity to act as citizens if a candidate were to die or become in some way legally disabled or disqualified to serve a President or Vice President.
• Isolates the impact of any election fraud, or other such problems, to the state where it occurs. For instance, recounts occur only on a state-by-state basis, not nationwide.
• Allows for each state to conduct elections using whatever methods it chooses (ie. voting system technology).
• Neutralizes the effect of voter turnout disparities, such as bad weather or a hotly contested statewide U.S. Senate or gubernatorial race.
• Maintains separation of powers, where under the original framework — only members of the U.S. House Of Representatives were directly elected by the people, members of the U.S. Senate were chosen by the state legislature, the President was chosen by the Electoral College, and the judiciary were appointed by the President and confirmed in the U.S. Senate.
Could the Electoral College be replaced by electing the President by popular vote?
Not likely. It would require an amendment to the Constitution, which is a long and difficult process. It would require the support of the major political parties, both of whom have benefited from the Electoral College system.