Holy Anachronism, Batman!
When Article 2 was written into the US Constitution, eligible American voters lived far apart and news travelled slowly. The Founding Fathers, fearing voters might not know the men running for top national office, arranged for more knowledgeable insiders to help make the decision. As means of communication improved, the initial reason for the Electoral College lost justification, but other perks remained, and the institution lived on.
The 21st Century is a different animal. Communications are broad and almost instantaneous. Newspapers, television and ubiquitous social media sites spread information at the speed of electrons. Almost every voter is privy to the full biography and current merits (or deficiencies) of any given candidate. In recent decades, we have seen two races in which the candidate won a plurality in the popular vote, but failed to get enough Electoral College votes. Accordingly, the demand for ‘direct democracy’ in the national race has also grown.
There are at least three ways the Electoral College can be defanged or dismantled and the Presidential ticket elected by popular vote alone:
There has only been one, THE Constitutional Convention at which the current US Constitution was passed. To call another requires two-thirds (34 of 50) to send a request to Congress to call one. That possibility looms larger with additional Republican wins in statehouses in this year. Indeed, they’ve been studying the possibility formally since 2013. The problem with this way of striking down the Electoral College is that a Convention is not limited to the one issue that triggers it. Once convened, the lawmakers can literally re-write the Constitution, removing things they don’t like and adding a few we may not like. CNN lays out the details of what it all might mean, ending with a quote from Karla Jones, director for international affairs for ALEC: "The chances of a convention running away, so to speak, are minimal." You believe anything from ALEC, and we’ve got a bridge you might like to buy!
A less drastic approach might be another Amendment to the Constitution, that is, a modification to the Constitution, on one matter only. Apart from a Convention, an amendment has to be passed by two-thirds of the members of both the House and the Senate. It is then sent to the states for ratification. It must be ratified by three-quarters (now 38) of the states, either by their legislatures or by special ‘ratifying conventions.’
Retiring Senator Barbara Boxer, D-CA, introduced legislation after the election which would scrap the Electoral College. Her bill calls for an amendment to the Constitution that would end the Electoral College system.
National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC)
The National Popular Vote interstate compact would not take effect until enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes—that is, enough to elect a President (270 of 538). Under the compact, the winner would be the candidate who received the most popular votes from all 50 states (and DC) on Election Day. When the Electoral College meets in mid-December, the national popular vote winner would receive all of the electoral votes of the enacting states. And that would be sufficient to allow the popular winner to also be the Electoral College victor. Until enough states sign on, those who support it would still operate under their current laws.
Of the three methods here, the most likely to succeed in the near term is the third, the NPVIC. Democrats at the state level will almost all support it. And backers point out that it may also attract Republicans who care about fairness. A constitutional amendment is the next best bet, but it takes longer in the best of times and will be harder to pass through a GOP-dominated Congress. A Convention is to be avoided, given the current conservative dominance in Congress and sentiment in some parts of the electorate. It would open a huge can of worms and could even give authoritarians the opportunity to limit freedom of speech, assembly and press, among other rights held in high regard.
1 - Voter Suppression
… especially on the weekend, allows working people to avoid long lines that prevent them from getting to work on time. Curtailing early voting, and in some states, local absentee mail-in voting, disproportionately affects Blacks and Latinos, who may also be less well off, have limited transportation choices and be more likely to vote Democratic. After the Tea Party sweep in the 2010 midterms, early voting was cut back in several states, among them the key ‘battleground states’ of Florida, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Ohio.
… strikes names from the registered voter rolls. Names may be purged because they are the same as a convicted felon (in states that disenfranchise them). Or because they match the name of a voter in another jurisdiction. This 2014 Slate report revealed the GOP funded Operation Crosscheck, a computer program that compared first and last names but not middle names or suffixes. Targeted names were those associated with Democratic voters. The voter may not know until they arrive at the polling place and are forced to vote a provisional ballot.
… are great, when they work. They allow the voter to register his/her choices. Then, the registration problem can then be corrected after Election Day. Voters may bring the necessary documents (or IDs) to voting officials within a certain time. But if the problem is nt resolved, the vote is lost.
… is all the doom and gloom we hear in the media prior to the election. It’s important for citizens to know that vote suppression tactics are being used. But, while that should make voters more determined than ever to make sure their vote is honored, it can also discourage them from trying.
… is a variation on bad news. Beyond the idea that their voting effort may well be useless is the spectre of being confronted at the polls by thugs from the ‘other side.’ The prospect of being challenged or involved in a nearby scuffle can make the faint-of-heart afraid to go near the polling station. Thugs don’t have to show up. All they need is the news report that says they might.
2 - Conduct of the Election Process
Elections can be skewed at the polls in several ways. Most of them have been tried this year in various parts of the country, particularly those controlled by Republicans. While unforeseen problems can accidentally cause disruptions to the process, what we’re talking about here is meddling designed to impede certain voters.
In a suburban area, most people get around to conduct their business by car. So, a polling place would need to have easy access and ample parking. In an urban area, especially one with many low-income residents, the polling place should be within walking distance or accessible by public transport. In either case, if it’s hard for voters to reach the polling place, they’re less likely to vote.
Following the Supreme Court decision that struck down parts of the Voting Rights Act (Shelby v Holder, 2013), a number southern states reduced the number of polling places. By November 2016, the total eliminated had risen to 868, many in areas that promised a close presidential race. This particularly impacted voters of color.
Long waits in line
Fewer polling places, besides being less easy to reach, can also mean more voters at each and longer waits to vote. Remember Arizona in the March primary? There were five-hour waits in line in some precincts. The elderly and infirm can’t stand in line an hour or more. Neither can people who have to get to work or home to relieve a babysitter.
Few or badly distributed voting machines
Even if there are enough polling places, lack of equipment or staff inside can cause delays. In Franklin County, OH, in 2004, Clintonville voters waited up to three hours. Clintonville is a mixed-ethnic, working class, usually Democratic area near the Ohio State campus. Across town, in Upper Arlington, a high-income suburb that leans Republican, voters were in and out in ten minutes. This year, similar problems were reported in Maricopa County, AZ … home of the infamous, now-former Sheriff Joe “Pink Underwear” Arapaio.
If voters are given partial or wrong information, they may lose their franchise. Rightly or wrongly, they may be told their voting place has moved. They may be sent to another location, or given a provisional ballot that may or may not be counted. They may hear they need a photo ID, when none is required. Poll workers may give a provisional ballot but, by ignorance or design, not tell the voter essential information about documentation needed to verify their registration. Changes in state laws, even if overturned by the courts, may stick in voters’ minds, adding further confusion.
If your polling place is ‘abroad’
For voters abroad, the situation can be more confusing. Voters in the US, at least, live within one state and have to contend with its rules, only. Overseas, information handed out to voters often tries to generalize as much as possible to cover all states. However, deadlines and rules about obtaining and returning registration forms and ballots may differ widely.
And worse, consider the case for Democrats Abroad. The same online platform, votefromabroad.org (VFA) can be used to fill and print out an application for registration and request for ballot and also to join DA. It’s simple, really, just one more click on the screen.
But some voters still don’t realize that the two processes are separate. Joining DA doesn’t register one to vote. Registering with one’s home state to vote, even in a Democratic primary, doesn’t automatically ‘join’ the voter to DA. And non-members … don’t get the very informative emails and reminders from their country committees.
3 - Hacking the Vote
Convincing voters they needn’t bother or scaring them with threats of intimidation or making them wait in long lines or simply confusing them is all rather old hat. The modern way to steal an election is simply to hack the vote without anyone knowing. And that’s been with us since 2000, possibly in the planning a bit before that.
In Florida, there were butterfly ballots (where the vote lozenge didn’t line up with the candidate on the opposite page) and hanging chads (where the little hole-puncher thingy didn’t punch completely … and the optical marks reader thingy thought the cardboard was still covering the hole). You’ll forgive this technical explanation.
The upshot was that the country was convinced it needed to modernize. The Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) was passed, and money was set aside to help state voting authorities enter the modern age of direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machines.
Like a smart phone, these DREs would be touch-screen and everyone could use them. They could be adjusted for people with physical impairments. They could be connected to local networks or the Internet and vote tallies could speed across the ether to Vote Central at the TV networks. There, highly skilled news presenters could open up the state map on touchscreen video walls and show us where this county or that was 83% reported. And much more.
Some states were already set up by the 2002 midterms, but it wasn’t until the 2004 general election that we saw the real power of the DRE. Florida seemed to have got its holes punched and life was good. Ohio got punched, too. And there, Kerry’s lead of 51-49 at about 11 pm suddenly became a Bush lead of 51-49. A few nerdy types had taken screen shots before and after the TV video walls uniformly showed Bush winning. The screen shots told a story but did not overturn the election.
The world gasped in disbelief. Americans were voting that dullard, neo-con warmonger in for a 2nd term?
The Greens and Libs in Ohio, as Jill Stein has just announced again this year, chipped in to demand and pay for a recount. The Democrats politely sat it out. The Republican Secretary of State of Ohio, Ken Blackwell, who was coincidentally the head of the state’s Re-Elect Bush committee, declared Bush the winner.
And, indeed, the recount supported his call. The DREs, unfortunately, had no paper trail, that is, nothing to re-count except the electronic tallies. And the digits agreed that Bush had won. A number of vote-integrity groups – Black Box Voting, Verified Voting, National Voting Rights Institute -- sprang up and began trying to prove something was amiss and how it worked.
It’s been 12 years now, and quite a lot has been learned. First of all, a well-purloined election doesn’t use just one big grab. It’s the sum of a little here, a little there that does the job. And as Zachary Quinto, at Verified Voting, points out, suspicion that the vote is hacked may be the biggest threat to democracy. It gives us the idea that voting is futile. Why bother?
But that’s not the whole story. Experts are on top of the potential threats, advising states ahead of time, checking the veracity of the results, and demanding re-counts where results indicate possible problems.
Here’s what they look for:
Anomalies only a nerd could love
Experts crunch the numbers. If, for instance, Trump wins big in counties using DREs but Clinton wins where they use paper ballots, it may suggest the machines are rigged. More innocently, it may mean a wealthy county that leans GOP has digital voting and a poorer area that leans Dem still uses mechanical machines. Either way, it indicates a need to investigate. Only five states are all-digital; in other states these DRE-paper disparities may show up.
Ageing DREs, calibration problems
Likewise, one or two machines in a polling station may record high for one candidate while the other 10 or so show the opponent winning. Many DREs were bought with HAVA funds and haven’t been replaced. They have to be calibrated so that a finger-touch here actually records the candidate the voter intends to choose. Older machines may be less reliable. So, calibration might be checked if results differ significantly from what’s expected in a given precinct, or from exit poll predictions.
Malware in the machines
Malware, that is a destructive computer algorithm, can be introduced into an individual machine that will then ‘flip’ all of its votes from one candidate to another. Smart malware won’t flip every vote, just a few every so often. Hardly noticeable. Machines that are not well-guarded can be opened and ‘loaded’ in just a few minutes. Some canny cyber-security professors and their students at Princeton have been finding the flaws since the late 1990’s. The problems go beyond the machines to the software that aggregates the totals, and even the OMRs that read those chad-punched paper ballots.
Networked to share
If you want a really fast tally for those TV video walls, you can connect all the DRE’s to a network that shoots the final count off to the state’s central election control. Of course, it’s a two-way street. If tallies can go out, viruses can also come in, and the malware in one machine can spread to all the machines in a network. A few states, such as Georgia, have heeded the warning and taken their machines off of networks.
Lack of paper trail
Under pressure from vote-integrity advocates, many jurisdictions have added voter-verified paper ‘audit’ trails to their machines. One simple way is a print-out, not unlike a cash register tape, locked securely within the DRE. Visible through a little glass window, the tape shows the current vote. The voter can check his/her vote has been recorded correctly before hitting the ‘finished voting’ button. The tape can be checked against the electronic tally if a recount is called.
Safeguards turned off
Modifying an existing machine can be costly. Some jurisdictions opted for other methods. Swing state Ohio, for instance, has an ‘audit camera’ above the machine. It records the screen the voter sees ... IF it’s turned on. This year, the Republican Secretary of State John Husted said it wasn’t necessary to use the cameras. A suit was brought. The Republican-appointed judge decided with Husted. Clinton lost by 454,000 votes, well over the ‘close’ election that in Ohio law triggers an automatic recount. In any case, without a paper trail or audit camera shots, a re-count is pointless. Investigative journalist Greg Palast had a lot to say about this and other potential problems before the election. Only a few in the media paid much attention. Coiffure and emails were juicier news.
Exit polls only accurate in 3rd world
Exit polls are used by election integrity teams around the world. They are considered the gold standard, highly accurate, in proving that an election has been conducted fairly. In the US, however, they’re called into question. David Pakman’s show has a lively talk about this.
And when they vary widely from the official outcomes, attempts are made to excuse the ‘error.’ A 2008 Forbes article, referencing the 2004 election, is a good example. Somehow, the random sample specified by a computer must have been weighted toward Kerry voters. So, the exit polls predicted a Kerry win. Was random sampling not random? Go figure.
Where does all this leave us? A recount is being filed in Wisconsin by Jill Stein, Green Party, whose website says a Pennsylvania recount has also been funded and they’re moving on the money needed for one in Michigan. The combined difference is just over 100,000 votes.
Recounts may show the popular vote is much closer or may even award one or more of these states to Clinton. In the first case, it would justify more Electors breaking their pledges for Trump. In the second case, the Electoral College makeup would change in favor of Clinton. She needs Pennsylvania and either of the other two.
The prospect of changing the election results is both heady and scary. In light of Clinton’s unprecedented 2-million popular vote lead, it seems only fair. With another just-awful name added to the Trump cabinet each day, it seems downright crucial. On the other hand, the potentially violent reaction of Trump’s extreme alt-right fans is unsettling, and a few urge letting well enough alone, aka ‘appeasement.’ We can click more petitions and send money to fund recounts, or not. It’s a matter, like voting, for each of us to weigh and decide.
Might the November 2016 election have been rigged? Apart from Trump’s avowal to challenge the results, relatively little attention was paid in the mainstream media before the election. On the Dem side, the reaction was, “Yeah, right, but not against you!” After all, the polls pointed to a likely Clinton win. Possibly a landslide!
November 9 brought its harsh truth. Clinton had lost. While some leaped to explain why voters had rejected her, others looked ahead to what a Trump presidency would mean. A few sought ways to prevent it.
The first ‘uprising’ took its outrage to the streets, for the most part peacefully and amid jeers from the Trump side of ‘It’s over! Get used to it!’
The next wave petitioned the Electoral College to do its job, i.e. choose the most suitable candidate as President when they meet on Dec 19. Three days after the election, over 3 million had signed. As of today, there are 4.6 million signatures and counting, with growing justification. Clinton’s lead in the popular vote has surpassed 2 million, and votes are still being tallied in a few states. Clinton has 64,223,958 votes, compared to Trump’s 62,206,395 votes.
However, many of these votes are in populous, blue states whose Electors have already been pledged to Clinton. Still, the original two Electors who said they will not vote for Trump have been joined by four more. They need 37 to change the outcome, and those other 31 will be more inclined to break their pledge, paying a lousy $1000 fine for the pleasure, if they have just a little more justification.
This is where ‘integrity of the vote’ comes in. The opportunity to correct anomalies occupies a small window between final tallies and certification of the vote by each state. Some states, Wisconsin, for instance, have deadlines for challenging the vote.
Election integrity encompasses three distinct areas.
conduct of the election process
- integrity in recording and counting the vote
2016 was the first election in 50 years not fully covered by the Voting Rights Act. Parts of the VRA were struck down by the US Supreme Court, on arguments that election access was now a done-deal for minority votes in what had been ‘Jim Crow’ states. Said states, at least those under Republican governors and legislatures, set about reconstructing roadblocks for minority voters.
The Electoral College has graduated. Last month, it was that annoying extra step between the election and the inaugural. No one bothered to understand it.
Today, calls to discard it have revived in liberal circles, but not before we see if we can’t use it for the purpose it was put into the Constitution.
In the late 18th century, it was felt that “ordinary Americans across a vast continent would lack sufficient information to choose directly and intelligently among leading presidential candidates.” [TIME Magazine] So, Article 2 of the Constitution, which sets out the Executive branch, left the final decision to a body of more knowledgeable men.
How it worked initially
The Electors in each state – the same number as its total of House and Senate seats – met to register their choice. The winners in each state then constituted a national field of vote getters. From among these, the candidate receiving the most votes became president and the second most, the vice president.
This method was similar to today’s winner-take-all situation (in 48 of 50 states). However, it meant that the president and vice president might be of different political persuasion.
The rise of political parties
In the early years of the Republic, there were no political parties, but this was changing rapidly at the turn of the 19th century. In 1803, the 12thAmendment was passed. Seeing the rise of parties, it allowed each one to designate a joint ticket of president and vice president.
Also, in those early years, the sense of ‘state sovereignty’ was much stronger than it is now, after two centuries of ‘one nation indivisible.’ Large and small states do not necessarily have different interests. However, interests do vary according to region – north vs south, coastal vs inland – and the types of production and economy location dictates. State laws develop to protect these interests.
States’ rights and slavery
While less discussed in civics classes, an alternative explanation for the Electoral College has to do with slavery. Northern states were more industrialized, with more citizens in more densely populated cities and towns. Southern states might have as many people, but over half a million were slaves, who could not vote.
In apportioning the number of Electors, they worked out a deal where slaves were counted as three fifths of a person. This gave more weight to slave states and acted as a buffer against abolitionist sentiments already growing in the North. In return, it the southern slave owners’ continued to support the Union.
After slavery was abolished, the College lived on. By this time, political forces in the various states had found other uses for the influence it generated and had little interest in having a direct popular vote for president and vice president.
The Electoral College Today
The details of who must certify what to whom make dry reading. In broad strokes, when we vote for President & Vice President, we are actually voting for the Electors pledged to that ticket of a particular party. Some states list the Electors by name on the ballot; others just show the candidates.
In Maine and Nebraska, the Electors are apportioned to the direct popular vote. In round numbers for ease of understanding, if a state had 10 Electors, and one ticket gets 60% of the vote, they would get six Electors. The second party ticket, say with 30% of the vote, would get three. And maybe a third party’s ticket gets 10% or one Elector.
The other 48 states are currently winner-take-all. Consider the difference. A largely inland, rural state with 20 Electoral votes, such as Pennsylvania, produces a 49-48% finish. All 20 Electors go to the winning ticket, Trump-Pence. A big coastal state with over twice the population – like California – gives all 55 of its Electors to Clinton-Kaine with a 61-33% landslide. But they don’t get any more Electors.
It’s impressive, but no matter how big the landslide in one state, if there are many small states favoring the opponent, the Electoral College may be pledged to elect the loser of the popular vote. [NY Times].
Faithless Electors? Moral Electors!
The thing many people didn’t realize till a certain petition started going around last week is that the Electors are not absolutely bound to vote as they are pledged. They can break the faith, although they will have to pay a fine for doing so. Their mandate, remember, is to choose the best person for the very weighty job of US President.
Already, two have said they intend to do that. According to Bi-Partisan Report (which, really, is a bit partisan) ‘Washington state elector Bret Chiafalo and Colorado elector Michael Baca have launched what they call “Moral Electors” in an attempt to persuade their colleagues to dump Trump along with them before he can officially take office. The lucky number of fellow Electors' support needed to block Trump from gaining the presidency is 37.’
The petition for this move is up on Change.org and has already garnered over 4.3 million signatures. That’s a record! It doesn’t mean they’ll get the necessary other 35 Electors. But it’s definitely in the ‘nothing ventured; nothing gained’ category.
It’s a gamble
At the very least, this many and more signatures send a strong message to the Trump administration that they may not want to run rough-shod over Obamacare, Social Security, hard-won LGBTQ and gender rights, labor and the environment.
If successful, this petition might hand the presidency back to Clinton come December. That would be unprecedented. And it might turn those snarky troll comments on the blog sites into nasty, even physical reactions from the currently gloating Trump supporters.
It is a decision not to be taken lightly. But it may also be seen as citizens using one of the many opportunities for correction and redress that are built into the US legal system.
Still, most of the ‘official’ responses to the 2016 outcome have called for cool heads, warm hearts, forgiveness and re-unification of the factions in US society. As noted in an earlier article, the rhetoric is pure Gandhi. This petition is his march to the sea.
– Karen Lee, DAGR Chair
For more details about Electoral College history -
“The Real Reason for the Electoral College Exists,” Akhil Reed Amar, TIME Magazine, Nov. 10, 2016. http://time.com/4558510/electoral-college-history-slavery/
Long, detailed info from Wikipedia
Grab a pencil (or calculator) and play around with the percentages -
2016 Election Results, interactive map, NY Times
State of play, moves to reverse the EC vote
Petition for Electoral College to vote for Hillary
Click for yourself if you’re of a mind. Share widely, too!
A post-election note from the DAGR Chair
It’s been five days since the Election. You haven’t heard much from your ExCom and you may be wondering if we’ve slunk away, tail between legs, embarrassed in defeat.
Okay, it did take a couple of days to recover from what we now think of as elect-lag. Staying up all night -- and dragging home if that all-nighter was at an outside event -- followed by another hour or so of BBC or CNN to catch the last bad news takes a toll. Floppy body, mush mind!
Then the need to reach out takes over, and the phone, email, web articles and Facebook frenzy kicks in. Share the grief! Perform the post mortem! Sign a petition!
Do what you will, it’s still surreal!
If you, like me, get your TV English news from BBC, you may be struck this weekend by the notion that Trump may not be such a bad choice after all. And it comes back to you that during the campaign, you noticed they hadn’t seemed sufficiently terrified of him. Now, THAT’s surreal!
Otherwise, reactions are mixed. Some of us just want to accept it and move on. Fair enough! It’s been an exhausting campaign. Others -- and I’m in this camp -- unload our angst by increasing activity and encouraging others to do the same.
There are a lot of options for action now. We’re trying as quickly as possible to get some ideas up on the DA website > Greece > News page. US and state laws provide many remedies, and they fall into a logical sequence.
track your own ballot and make sure it’s counted
monitor and make sure your state’s vote count is accurate
petition the Electoral College to elect the popular vote winner
draw stateside friends into the discussion in social media and emails
organize our DAGR country plan and timeline for 2017
help decide if we should go to an inaugural party or hold an anti-inaugural
bone up on the issues a Trump presidency is likely to attack
read about voter suppression in ‘red’ states once VRA was curtailed
advocate for the National Popular Vote Compact in your home state
That may seem like a lot of work, and some like No. 3 have a snowball’s chance in hell of succeeding. But each action has its own optimal time and unique rewards.
Know that by participating in any or all of these actions, we’ll deepen our knowledge of our system. That means we’ll be better prepared to hold the line on crucial programs (e.g. Social Security) and fight off future assaults on voter enfranchisement.
Of major importance, especially by social media, we can reach out and support those energetic, young, first-time voters who got slapped down. We can encourage them and offer something constructive to do when the weather goes cold and street protests peter out.
ExCom will be meeting soon to assess our performance past and our road ahead. We’ll also put up a survey to learn what you’d like to do as a member of DAGR and what you think the Party as a whole should do.
For now, our approach is the one Elizabeth Warren, among others, shared this week.
Karen Lee, Chair
Déjà vu? Change the View!
November 2000. Gore gets 500,000+ more popular votes than Bush, but is denied a recount of flawed ‘hanging chads’ and ‘butterfly ballots’ in Florida. Florida’s Electoral College votes go to Bush. We are terribly disappointed, but good sports about it. Touch-screen digital voting machines are mandated by the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) with subsidies for their purchase.
November 2004. The new touch screen machines are in use across the country. Most provide no printout of the vote. Kerry is projected as winner in the first few hours after polls close. At about 11 p.m., some observers claim they noticed the score in Ohio abruptly flip from 51-49 to 49-51. Amid some confusion in the US and utter disbelief abroad, Bush is elected to a 2nd term. Vote integrity groups spring up and identify other anomalies in the count vs prior and exit polls. The Greens and Libertarians chip in and call for a recount, but again, there’s no ‘paper trail.’ We are terribly disappointed, but Kerry, his staffers and the Dem party are gracious losers.
November 2008. Obama amplifies an inspired campaign with innovative use of online resources and sweeps into office with a Democratic House and Senate. He inherits a gutted economy and the seeds of a backlash coalition of racist, socially conservative, anti-government forces. But, with Dems also in office at the state level, some of the voting machine ‘glitches’ are corrected. We pass what laws we can. We are happy.
November 2012. Founded by Kerry’s nemesis, the Swiftboaters, and funded by oil billionaires, the backlash has become the Tea Party movement. It‘s pulled off a major 2010 midterm win at all levels and set about gerrymandering House districts. Congress is in gridlock and slow economic recovery unsettles working class voters. Obama squeaks by into his 2nd term. We are relieved.
November 2016. The Tea Party tries to look respectable and fields a remarkable number of candidates for the GOP nomination. Last man standing is tyro Trump, whose uninhibited use of hate-the-other rhetoric rivals the Tea Party’s and is envied by the unsettled. On the Dem side, Sanders talks issues, taps into the unsettled anger and brings a growing coterie of enthusiastic progressives. Polls say he’d trounce Trump, but the Dem establishment still holds the reins and plays it ‘safe’ with Clinton. Clinton runs a stand-up campaign and is predicted to win. Trump wins and overnight retracts his hair and his worst divisive rhetoric. We are confused, devastated, gob-stopped, but still hopeful when Podesta tells us to come back for news in the morning. In the morning, Clinton gives an eloquent concession speech. She’s a gracious loser. Déjà vu.
At first, most of us tried to process what had happened. We reached out to each other by phone and social media. We scanned the newsfeeds for some clue that would explain the void we felt. Some were heart-broken, some were scared. Some were heckled and worse by Trumpeters. Others admitted that they were really, really pissed off. In the US, they took to the streets in protest.
But next the day dawned, and it was still surreal. Party leaders sent out brave emails, graciously extolling inclusiveness and unity, calm heads and forgiving hearts. You hear Gandhi in those words. But Gandhi also marched to the sea. Shouldn’t we?
If you, like many of us, are tired of déjà vu, let’s talk about changing the view! Acting now, employing the remedies built into the US body of law, we can take our minds off the disappointment and set positive change in motion. – K. Lee, DAGR Chair, 2015-17
“Don’t agonize; organize” – PDA
Hillary Clinton Concession Speech
President Obama Full Speech on Trump Election Win
Trump Victory Speech w/into by Mike Pence
[articles following or to come]
Secure the Vote
Count Every Vote
Petition the Electoral College to Use its Mandate
Revise Electoral College Selection
Prepare for a Tussle Ahead
Get Involved in Democratic Activity
Count the Vote
What’s the most popular come-back of the week?
“The election’s a done deal! Get over it!”
Get over the shock, yes! But, remember that the election didn’t end when polls closed Tuesday night. Whether anything changes or not, the process goes on until the Inauguration.
At the local/state level:
... are still accepted and counted by several states. Rules vary widely from state to state, but some accept mailed ballots up to 10 days after the election. Mailed ballots are hard copies, so envelopes must be matched to the voter rolls, then opened and the ballots counted (usually) by hand. Absentee ballots can and have affected the final count.
… are cast at a polling station on Election Day if the voter’s eligibility is in question. Questions arise from a simple error or illegible handwriting. Or because the voter has been caught in a vote purging effort.
Challenges and recounts
… may take place. Some states fund an automatic recount in a very close race (1 point or less difference). In most, voters or a political party may challenge the vote, call for a recount, and pay the expense. Such challenges arise when vote tampering or hacking of electronic systems is suspected.
The deadline for finishing the count, then, may be even later, up to December 19, this year. As the states finish their job, the process connects to the federal level. It’s dull reading that glosses over a lot of potential drama.
Mid-November through December 19, 2016
The governor of each state prepares Certificates of Ascertainment and, as soon as “practicable,” sends one to the Archivist of the United States (head of the National Archives). This should happen by the time of the Electoral College elector’s meeting.
December 13, 2016
States must make final decisions in any controversies over the appointment of their electors at least six days before the meeting of the Electors. Decisions by states’ courts are conclusive, if decided under laws enacted before Election Day.
December 19, 2016
The Electors meet in their state and vote for President and Vice President. They send the result on a Certificate of Vote, which goes with their state’s Certificate of Ascertainment to the President of the Senate, et al.
December 28, 2016
Electoral votes (the Certificates of Vote) must be received by the President of the Senate and the Archivist no later than nine days after the meeting of the electors.
On or Before January 3, 2017
The Archivist and/or representatives from the Office of the Federal Register meet with the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House in late December or early January.
January 6, 2017
The Congress meets in joint session to count the electoral votes. The Vice President, as President of the Senate, presides over the count, announces the results of the Electoral College vote, and then declares which persons, if any, have been elected President and Vice President of the United States.
If no Presidential candidate has won 270 or more electoral votes, a majority, the House of Representatives elects the President, choosing from the three candidates who received the greatest number of electoral votes. The vote is taken by state, with each state having one vote. The process is repeated for Vice President, but with the Senate voting.
Objections to the Electoral College vote must be submitted in writing and be signed by at least one member of the House and one Senator, with the House and Senate then considering the merits under procedures set out in federal law. (See 2004!)
January 20, 2017 at Noon—Inauguration Day
The President-elect takes the Oath of Office and becomes the President of the United States.
Key Dates in the 2016 General Election
Office of the Federal Register, National Archives and Records Administration
National Association of Secretaries of State
Explore a little, visit your state’s SOS site, linked to NASS.
(Hint: tons of details in training materials for precinct election officials)