The Sunday Read: Monday’s Electoral College vote could prove interesting

(The Center Square) – The 538 electors within the Electoral College will cast their votes on Monday.

This has historically been an uneventful, check-the-box moment in the process of electing a president. But in a year brimming with eventfulness, what emerges Monday from this milestone may be interesting – depending on the number of faithless electors who emerge.

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To secure victory, presumptive President-elect Joe Biden requires 270 Electoral College votes. Per the states that have certified their results – and barring any further runs at the U.S. Supreme Court, which late Friday afternoon rejected the Texas-based case that alleged violations of Constitutional provisions in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – the Democrat should receive enough votes to be confirmed by the Electoral College.

Whether Biden receives those electors’ votes remains to be determined, which makes Monday another day worth living to see. 

Faithless electors didn’t occupy a significant amount of media mindshare in 2016, when electoral college votes for then-presumptive President Donald Trump were made, but 10 dissenting votes were cast that December by electors: Those dissenting electors’ votes went to former Secretary of Defense Colin Powell, former Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio), former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and Faith Spotted Eagle, a political activist and Dakota Access Pipeline objector from South Dakota.

Votes from faithless electors aren’t unprecedented. There have been 14 presidential elections sine 1796 in which someone deviated their vote, but typically (11 times in U.S. history) only one elector had done so. 

However, the faithless electors among the 2016 counts were the highest in the nation’s history aside from the 63 elector votes cast in 1872. That year, votes pledged to Horace Greeley were changed after his death in late November. Ulysses S. Grant won that election, and the faithless electors’ votes went to non-presidential candidates.

What will come from the Electoral College votes this year? Well, that remains to be determined. The journalists at The Center Square will approach this with the same curiosity and objectivity that drives our reporting. Perhaps there will be a number of such votes to write about. Perhaps none.

I suspect that it may be interesting, but probably not in itself consequential.

Topical interest in the Electoral College resuscitates itself every four years, but the voices are louder when outnumbered Republican voters win enough states to lay claim to the presidency.

The push there is to give the popular vote a platform. 

There is a profound lack of appreciation for the subtlety of our nation, its constitution and laws. We live in the United States (plural – States) of America. The Electoral College, outlined in Article II, Section I of the Constitution, protects the interest of individual states from voter density in metropolitan cites. This guards and ensures the relevance and independence of Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, et al. from the interests of much larger states such as California, Texas, Florida, and New York – each of which has one or more large metropolitan concentrations that are larger than the entirety of some smaller states. As a debate, this lives on – and probably will.

The United States is not perfect. It was created to form “a more perfect Union.” Its founders aimed for their new country to be a better place than the places in the world that they knew, experienced and understood.

We are not very good as a nation in teaching the Constitution specifically, or civics in general. An April 2018 Pew Research Center study that measured Americans’ grasp of reality around the political system (it’s a Constitutional Republic here, by the way) and our democracy found it is low.

But you don’t need Pew to tell you that. Just open your Facebook feed and read what people who you know, who you thought were pretty bright – some of them who may be teachers, doctors, lawyers or others holding advanced degrees – and scan what they’ve had to say about anything potentially political over the past year. It can be stunning.

Consequentially, when voters become of age and then participate in a presidential election, many do not understand what their respective vote means, why the state they live in matters, or how it might be possible that U.S. voting laws don’t jibe with the way votes are cast and tabulated for contestants of “America’s Got Talent.”

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