Fun Facts about the Electoral College

In my early post, I ran a couple what if scenarios.  Ethan Flax’s article discusses some of the answers to my question in his article.  Below I have copied some of his article.

What if no one gets a majority of the Electoral College’s votes?

If no candidate can grab a majority (currently 270) of the Electoral College’s votes, the House of Representatives meets immediately to pick the new president.

In this situation, each state’s Congressmen get together and pick a candidate among the top three vote getters in the Electoral College balloting.

Each state’s delegation then casts one vote. This process keeps going on indefinitely until a single candidate receives a majority of the states’ votes.

The House of Representatives has picked two presidents: Thomas Jefferson in 1800 and

John Quincy Adams in 1824.Since electors also ballots for Vice President, the same situation can arise with that office. In these cases, the Senate immediately goes into session to pick a Vice President, although each Senator has his own vote.

The Senate votes until a candidate receives a majority of the cast votes. This sort of contingent election has happened just once.

In 1836 Martin Van Buren’s running mate, Richard M. Johnson needed 148 votes to win the Vice Presidency, but Virginia’s electors refused to vote for him.

As a result, he ended up stuck with 147 votes, and the Senate had to hold a contingent election, where Johnson cruised by Whig candidate Francis P. Granger.

Can the electors change their mind?

They can, but they then become what are known as “faithless electors.”

Technically, states make their electors pledge to vote in a certain way, and 24 states have laws that punish electors who decide to get cute and switch things up.

However, with a few exceptions like Michigan and Minnesota, votes cast by faithless electors still count in the final tally.

What happens if a president-elect dies?

The national election takes place Tuesday, but the Electoral College won’t formally meet to cast their votes until December 15.

If a candidate dies or becomes otherwise unfit to take office in the interim, a thorny issue pops up.

Some states, like Virginia, legally bind their electors to vote for the candidate whose name was on the general election ballot. Other states, though, are more flexible and would allow their electors to vote for the ticket’s vice-presidential candidate or other agreed-upon candidate.

Luckily, this scenario has never happened with an election winner.

In 1872, though, Democrat Horace Greeley died just over three weeks after Ulysses S. Grant thumped him in the election.

Because the Electoral College still had to meet to elect Grant, electors who would have voted for Greeley simply spread their 66 votes among other Democratic candidates.

As a result, Thomas Andrews Hendricks actually came in second in the election with 42 electoral votes despite not campaigning for the presidency; he was busy successfully running for Governor of Indiana.

Three electors actually voted for Greeley even though he was dead, which probably tells you all you need to know about the health of the Democratic Party during Reconstruction.

If the President elect dies after the Electoral College’s voting but before the inauguration, the Twentieth Amendment states that the Vice President elect becomes President.

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