Dead Presidents

Historical facts, thoughts, ramblings and collections on the Presidency and about the Presidents of the United States.

By Anthony Bergen
E-Mail: bergen.anthony@gmail.com
Recent Tweets @
Posts tagged "Electoral College"
Asker Anonymous Asks:
Might have been asked before: If the electoral college ties, the Presidential election goes to the House. What if the House has an even number of Republicans and Democrats and goes down the partisan middle?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

If no candidate receives the required majority in the Electoral College to become President and the election is sent to the House of Representatives, the first thing to understand is that the votes are not cast individually.  Instead, the vote is decided by state delegations (whose individual members of Congress vote as a block), and resolving the undecided election would require an absolute majority of states (at least 26) in order for a candidate to be elected.

So, to break it down more:  there are 435 individual members of the House of Representatives, but in the case of an undecided election of the President that is thrown into the House for a resolution, the members don’t cast individual votes.  Instead, they gather in their respective state delegations and cast their votes within their state’s caucus — the candidate who wins the majority of votes within the state delegation, “wins” that state.  Once a candidate wins an absolute majority of state delegations that candidate is elected President.

Now, there are, of course, 50 states, so what happens if the votes of the state delegations are split 25-25 and we still have no winner?  We simply take another ballot.  And, if necessary, another and another and another…  The voting in the House of Representatives continues on-and-on until a candidate finally wins a majority of state delegations.  It’s like a Papal Conclave — we must have a winner! —  without the world’s most low-tech method of excitement: the fumata bianca.

A few more important particulars to note if a Presidential election is thrown into the House of Representatives because nobody won a majority of Electoral votes:

•The House must choose between the leading Presidential candidates who received Electoral votes, they can’t just plug anyone that they want in there.  Of course, this is usually just two candidates.  However, the last time the election was decided by the House (1824), there were four candidates who split the Electoral vote: Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, William H. Crawford, and Henry Clay.  In such a case, the House is limited to deciding between the top three vote-getters in the original Electoral College tally.
•Advances in technology and transportation has all but eliminated the possibility of state delegations being absent from the proceedings, but it is mandatory for at least 2/3 of the state delegations to be present in order for the House to decide the election.
•All other Congressional business takes a backseat to an undecided Presidential election thrown into the House.  The House begins voting as quickly as possible and continues until there is a winner who qualifies.
•If we reach Inauguration Day and still don’t have a President-elect, the person who won an Electoral College majority as Vice President becomes President.  If there is also no Vice President-elect, the House how and who to choose the person who will become Acting President until somebody qualifies as President.  (An undecided Vice Presidential election is resolved by the U.S. Senate.)

The House of Representatives has decided two Presidential election — most famously the aforementioned 1824 election in which Andrew Jackson won a plurality of Electoral votes against John Quincy Adams, William H. Crawford, and Henry Clay, but lacked the required majority necessary to clinch the Presidency.  The House ended up electing John Quincy Adams, a result that Jackson and his supporters chalked up to a “Corrupt Bargain” between JQA and Henry Clay, who became Secretary of State under President Adams.  

The first election decided by the House was the 1800 campaign.  At the time, the top vote-getter in the Electoral College was elected President and the person who finished second was elected Vice President.  While there was no official designation between the Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates, going into the 1800 campaign, Democratic-Republicans unofficially saw Thomas Jefferson as the Presidential candidate and Aaron Burr as the Vice Presidential candidate.  When Jefferson and Burr ended up tied in the Electoral College, Burr saw an opportunity to snatch the Presidency up for himself, decided not to step aside for Jefferson, and the election was thrown into the House.  Alexander Hamilton, a Federalist leader, had issues with both Jefferson and Burr, but he hated Jefferson just a little bit less than Burr.  Hamilton influenced the Federalist support in Congress that Jefferson needed to clinch the Presidency and Burr ended up as Vice President.  As we all know, Burr never forgot Hamilton’s role in costing him the Presidency and he ended up killing Hamilton in a duel while still Vice President of the United States.

Incidentally, just in case anybody was wondering, a Vice Presidential election has only been thrown into the Senate for a decision on one occasion — 1836.  Richard Mentor Johnson had been a staunch supporter of Andrew Jackson and the outgoing President Jackson wanted to reward him.  While Jackson had almost seemingly handpicked Martin Van Buren as his chosen successor in 1836, Old Hickory definitely chose Johnson as the Democratic Vice Presidential candidate that year, insisting that the Democratic National Convention nominate Johnson as VP.  The Democrats nominated Johnson as Van Buren’s running mate, but Johnson was extremely unpopular in the South.  Despite being from Kentucky, Johnson openly kept a former slave as his common-law wife and raised their mixed-race children as white, free, and legitimate.  Many Southerners of his own party steadfastly refused to support Johnson’s candidacy for Vice President even as they supported Van Buren for President.  This led to four candidates splitting the vote for Vice President in the Electoral College — Richard M. Johnson, John Tyler, Francis Granger, and William Smith.  While Johnson had a solid plurality of Electoral votes for VP, he lacked the majority required for election that Van Buren had won as President.

In the case of a Presidential election deadlocked in the Electoral College, the House settles the dispute by a vote between the top three vote-getters, at most.  When a deadlocked Vice Presidential election is decided by the U.S. Senate, only the top two contenders in the Electoral College are considered.  So, the undecided election for Vice President in 1836 came down to Johnson and Granger, and Andrew Jackson was happy to see the Senate elect his choice for VP, Richard Mentor Johnson, to join his chosen successor as President, Martin Van Buren.

(Four years later, neither President Van Buren or Vice President Johnson were as lucky.  The Democrats renominated Van Buren, but Southerners were no longer the only opposition to the scandalous Richard Mentor Johnson.  At the Democratic Convention in 1840, Democrats refused to renominate Johnson, Van Buren refused to nominate another VP, and Van Buren headed into the general election season without a running mate.  Still hoping to continue in the job, Johnson simply campaigned for VP on his own and ended up as President Van Buren’s de facto running mate.  Johnson’s presence or absence had no discernible impact on the campaign — no matter who his running mate was, the incumbent President Van Buren was trounced on Election Day by Whig candidate William Henry Harrison.) 

Asker Anonymous Asks:
When does the electoral college meet to officially cast their votes for president and is that done at the capital building in Washington?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

The Electoral College actually never gathers together for a meeting.  The Electors who American voters chose on Election Day last month will meet on December 17th in their respective state capitals.  The Electoral College meets to officially cast their votes on the first Monday after the second Wednesday of December following Election Day. 

While each state has their own process for the meeting of their Presidential Electors, they don’t differ all that dramatically.  There are various formalities and for the casting of the votes and some strict protocols for officially sending the votes to state officials and then to Congress, which officially counts and certifies the Electoral College results.  That takes place in a Joint Session of Congress in early January and that responsibility is one of the first major actions of the new Congress.  That means that, for the 2012 election, it will be the 113th Congress (which begins on January 3, 2013) instead of the 112th Congress (the Congress in office at the time of the 2012 election) which counts and officially certifies the Electoral College results.  In our case, that’s probably a good thing because if anybody could screw up counting the Electoral votes, it’s the abysmal 112th Congress.

Interestingly, it is usually the Vice President, in his Constitutional role as President of the Senate, who presides over the Joint Session and the certification of the Electoral College results.  Sometimes, that can lead to what must be an awkward and probably even somewhat heartbreaking experience of a Vice President presiding over the official certification of an election that he lost — something that has happened a few times recently: 1960 (Nixon, lost the Presidential election to Kennedy), 1968 (Humphrey, lost the Presidential election to Nixon), 1980 (Mondale, as Carter’s running mate), 1992 (Quayle, as Bush’s running mate), and, of course, 2000 (Gore, as famously seen in Fahrenheit 9/11.)

A listing of every person in American history who has received an Electoral Vote for President of the United States, organized by overall total number of Presidential Electoral Votes received during career.

•1,876: Roosevelt, Franklin Delano (1882-1945) | Democratic | New York [1932; 1936; 1940; 1944]
•1,040: Nixon, Richard Milhous (1913-1994) | Republican | California [1960; 1968; 1972]
•1,015: Reagan, Ronald Wilson (1911-2004) | Republican | California [1976; 1980; 1984]
•899: Eisenhower, Dwight David (1890-1969) | Republican | New York [1952; 1956]
•749: Clinton, William Jefferson (1946-     ) | Democratic | Arkansas [1992; 1996]
•712: Wilson, (Thomas) Woodrow (1856-1924) | Democratic | New Jersey [1912; 1916]
•664: Cleveland, (Stephen) Grover (1837-1908) | Democratic | New York [1884; 1888; 1892]
•594: Bush, George Herbert Walker (1924-     ) | Republican | Texas [1988; 1992]
•563: McKinley, William (1843-1901) | Republican | Ohio [1896; 1900]
•556: Bush, George Walker (1946-     ) | Republican | Texas [2000; 2004]
•503: Hoover, Herbert Clark (1874-1964) | Republican | California [1928; 1932]
•500: Grant, Ulysses Simpson (1822-1885) | Republican | Illinois [1868; 1872]
•496: Jackson, Andrew (1767-1845) | Democratic-Republican, Democratic | Tennessee [1824; 1828; 1832]
•493: Bryan, William Jennings (1860-1925) | Democratic | Nebraska [1896; 1900; 1908]
•486: Johnson, Lyndon Baines (1908-1973) | Democratic | Texas [1964]
•424: Roosevelt, Theodore (1858-1919) | Republican, Progressive/Bull Moose | New York [1904; 1912]
•414: Monroe, James (1758-1831) | Democratic-Republican | Virginia [1816; 1820]
•404: Harding, Warren Gamaliel (1865-1923) | Republican | Ohio [1920]
•392: Lincoln, Abraham (1809-1865) | Republican | Illinois [1860; 1864]
•382: Coolidge, (John) Calvin (1872-1933) | Republican | Massachusetts [1924]
•378: Harrison, Benjamin (1833-1901) | Republican | Indiana [1888; 1892]
•365: Obama, Barack Hussein (1961-     ) | Democratic | Illinois [2008]
•346: Carter, Jimmy (1924-     ) | Democratic | Georgia [1976; 1980]
•329: Taft, William Howard (1857-1930) | Republican | Ohio [1908; 1912]
•307: Jefferson, Thomas (1743-1826) | Democratic-Republican | Virginia [1792; 1796; 1800; 1804]
•307: Harrison, William Henry (1773-1841) | Whig | Ohio [1836; 1840]
•303: Truman, Harry S. (1884-1972) | Democratic | Missouri [1948]
•303: Kennedy, John Fitzgerald (1917-1963) | Democratic | Massachusetts [1960]
•288: Dewey, Thomas Edmund (1902-1971) | Republican | New York [1944; 1948]
•266: Gore, Albert Arnold (1948-     ) | Democratic | Tennessee [2000]
•254: Pierce, Franklin (1804-1869) | Democratic | New Hampshire [1852]
•254: Hughes, Charles Evans (1862-1948) | Republican | New York [1916]
•251: Kerry, John Forbes (1943-     ) | Democratic | Massachusetts [2004]
•250: Madison, James (1751-1836) | Democratic-Republican | Virginia [1808; 1812]
•247: Adams, John (1735-1826) | Federalist | Massachusetts [1789; 1792; 1796; 1800]
•240: Ford, Gerald Rudolph (1913-2006) | Republican | Michigan [1976]
•230: Van Buren, Martin (1782-1862) | Democratic | New York [1836; 1840]
•214: Garfield, James Abram (1831-1881) | Republican | Ohio [1880]
•203: Washington, George (1732-1799) | Federalist | Virginia [1789; 1792; 1796]
•191: Clay, Henry (1777-1852) | Democratic-Republican | Kentucky [1824; 1832; 1844]
•191: Humphrey, Hubert Horatio (1911-1978) | Democratic | Minnesota [1968]
•185: Hayes, Rutherford Birchard (1822-1893) | Republican | Ohio [1876]
•184: Tilden, Samuel Jones (1814-1886) | Democratic | New York [1876]
•182: Blaine, James Gillespie (1830-1893) | Republican | Maine [1884]
•174: Buchanan, James (1791-1868) | Democratic | Pennsylvania [1856]
•173: McCain, John Sidney (1936-     ) | Republican | Arizona [2008]
•170: Polk, James Knox (1795-1849) | Democratic | Tennessee [1844]
•168: Adams, John Quincy (1767-1848) | Democratic-Republican | Massachusetts [1820; 1824; 1828]
•163: Taylor, Zachary (1784-1850) | Whig | Louisiana [1848]
•162: Stevenson, Adlai Ewing (1900-1965) | Democratic | Illinois [1952; 1956]
•159: Dole, Robert Joseph (1923-     ) | Republican | Kansas [1996]
•155: Hancock, Winfield Scott (1824-1886) | Democratic | Pennsylvania [1880]
•140: Parker, Alton Brooks (1852-1926) | Democratic | New York [1904]
•136: Davis, John William (1873-1955) | Democratic | West Virginia [1924]
•127: Cass, Lewis (1782-1866) | Democratic | Michigan [1848]
•127: Cox, James Middleton (1870-1957) | Democratic | Ohio [1920]
•126: Pinckney, Charles Cotesworth (1746-1825) | Federalist | South Carolina [1796; 1800; 1804; 1808]
•114: Frémont, John Charles (1813-1890) | Republican | California [1856]
•111: Dukakis, Michael Stanley (1933-     ) | Democratic | Massachusetts [1988]
•104: Burr, Aaron (1756-1836) | Democratic-Republican | New York [1792; 1796; 1800]
•89: Clinton, DeWitt (1769-1828) | Federalist | New York [1812]
•87: Smith, Alfred Emanuel (1873-1944) | Democratic | New York [1928]
•82: Willkie, Wendell Lewis (1892-1944) | Republican | Indiana [1940]
•80: Seymour, Horatio (1810-1886) | Democratic | New York [1868]
•72: Breckinridge, John Cabell (1821-1875) | National Democrat | Kentucky [1860]
•66: Clinton, George (1739-1812) | Anti-Federalist, Democratic-Republican | New York [1789; 1792; 1796; 1808]
•59: Pinckney, Thomas (1750-1828) | Federalist | South Carolina [1796]
•52: Goldwater, Barry Morris (1909-1998) | Republican | Arizona [1964]
•46: Wallace, George Corley (1919-1998) | American Independent | Alabama 46  [1968]
•42: Scott, Winfield (1786-1866) | Whig | New Jersey [1852]
•42: Hendricks, Thomas Andrews (1819-1885) | Democratic | Indiana [1872]
•41: Crawford, William Harris (1772-1834) | Democratic-Republican | Georgia [1824]
•39: Bell, John (1796-1869) | Constitutional Union | Tennessee [1860]
•39: Thurmond, (James) Strom (1903-2003) | States’ Rights/Dixiecrat | South Carolina [1948]
•34: King, Rufus (1755-1827) | Federalist | New York [1816]
•26: White, Hugh Lawson (1773-1840) | Whig | Tennessee [1836]
•22: Weaver, James Baird (1833-1912) | Populist | Iowa [1892]
•21: McClellan, George Brinton (1826-1885) | Democratic | New Jersey [1864]
•18: Brown, Benjamin Gratz (1826-1885) | National Union Party | Missouri [1872]
•17: McGovern, George Stanley (1922-     ) | Democratic | South Dakota [1972]
•15: Adams, Samuel (1722-1803) | Democratic-Republican | Massachusetts [1796]
•15: Jay, John (1745-1829) | Federalist | New York [1789; 1796; 1800]
•14: Webster, Daniel (1782-1852) | Whig | Massachusetts [1836]
•13: LaFollette, Robert Marion, Sr. (1855-1925) | Progressive | Wisconsin [1924]
•13: Mondale, Walter Frederick (1928-     ) | Democratic | Minnesota [1984]
•12: Douglas, Stephen Arnold (1813-1861) | Democratic | Illinois [1860]
•11: Ellsworth, Oliver (1745-1807) | Federalist | Connecticut [1796]
•11: Floyd, John (1783-1837) | Independent Democrat/Nullifier | Virginia [1832]
•11: Mangum, Willie Person (1792-1861) | Whig | North Carolina [1836]
•8: Fillmore, Millard (1800-1874) | Whig, American/Know-Nothing | New York [1856]
•8: Landon, Alfred Mossman (1887-1987) | Republican | Kansas [1936]
•7: Wirt, William (1772-1834) | Anti-Masonic | Maryland [1832]
•6: Harrison, Robert Hanson (1745-1790) | Federalist | Maryland [1789]
•6: Rutledge, John (1739-1800) | Federalist | South Carolina [1789]
•4: Hancock, John (1737-1793) | Federalist | Massachusetts [1789]
•3: Iredell, James (1751-1799) | Federalist | North Carolina [1796]
•2: Huntington, Samuel (1731-1796) | Federalist | Connecticut [1789]
•2: Milton, John (1757-1817) | Federalist | Georgia [1789]
•2: Henry, John (1750-1798) | Democratic-Republican | Maryland [1796]
•2: Johnston, Samuel (1733-1816) | Federalist | North Carolina [1796]
•2: Jenkins, Charles Jones (1805-1883) | Democratic | Georgia [1872]
•1: Armstrong, James (1728-1800) | Federalist | Georgia [1789]
•1: Lincoln, Benjamin (1733-1810) | Federalist | Massachusetts [1789]
•1: Telfair, Edward (1735-1807) | Anti-Federalist | Georgia [1789]
•1: Davis, David (1815-1886) | Liberal Republican | Illinois [1872]
•1: Hospers, John (1918-2011) | Libertarian | California [1972]
•1: Bentsen, Lloyd Millard (1921-2006) | Democratic | Texas [1988]
•1: Edwards, John Reid (1953-     ) | Democratic | North Carolina [2004]

An alphabetical listing of every person in American history who has received an Electoral Vote for President of the United States.

•Adams, John (1735-1826) | Federalist | Massachusetts:  247  [1789; 1792; 1796; 1800]
•Adams, John Quincy (1767-1848) | Democratic-Republican | Massachusetts:  168  [1820; 1824; 1828]
•Adams, Samuel (1722-1803) | Democratic-Republican | Massachusetts:  15  [1796]
•Armstrong, James (1728-1800) | Federalist | Georgia:  1  [1789]
•Bell, John (1796-1869) | Constitutional Union | Tennessee:  39  [1860]
•Bentsen, Lloyd Millard (1921-2006) | Democratic | Texas:  1  [1988]
•Blaine, James Gillespie (1830-1893) | Republican | Maine:  182  [1884]
•Breckinridge, John Cabell (1821-1875) | National Democrat | Kentucky:  72  [1860]
•Brown, Benjamin Gratz (1826-1885) | National Union Party | Missouri:  18  [1872]
•Bryan, William Jennings (1860-1925) | Democratic | Nebraska:  493  [1896; 1900; 1908]
•Buchanan, James (1791-1868) | Democratic | Pennsylvania:  174  [1856]
•Burr, Aaron (1756-1836) | Democratic-Republican | New York:  104  [1792; 1796; 1800]
•Bush, George Herbert Walker (1924-     ) | Republican | Texas:  594  [1988; 1992]
•Bush, George Walker (1946-     ) | Republican | Texas:  556  [2000; 2004]
•Carter, Jimmy (1924-     ) | Democratic | Georgia:  346  [1976; 1980]
•Cass, Lewis (1782-1866) | Democratic | Michigan:  127  [1848]
•Clay, Henry (1777-1852) | Democratic-Republican | Kentucky:  191  [1824; 1832; 1844]
•Cleveland, (Stephen) Grover (1837-1908) | Democratic | New York:  664  [1884; 1888; 1892]
•Clinton, DeWitt (1769-1828) | Federalist | New York:  89  [1812]
•Clinton, George (1739-1812) | Anti-Federalist, Democratic-Republican | New York:  66  [1789; 1792; 1796; 1808]
•Clinton, William Jefferson (1946-     ) | Democratic | Arkansas:  749  [1992; 1996]
•Coolidge, (John) Calvin (1872-1933) | Republican | Massachusetts:  382  [1924]
•Cox, James Middleton (1870-1957) | Democratic | Ohio:  127  [1920]
•Crawford, William Harris (1772-1834) | Democratic-Republican | Georgia:  41  [1824]
•Davis, David (1815-1886) | Liberal Republican | Illinois:  1  [1872]
•Davis, John William (1873-1955) | Democratic | West Virginia:  136  [1924]
•Dewey, Thomas Edmund (1902-1971) | Republican | New York:  288  [1944; 1948]
•Dole, Robert Joseph (1923-     ) | Republican | Kansas:  159  [1996]
•Douglas, Stephen Arnold (1813-1861) | Democratic | Illinois:  12  [1860]
•Dukakis, Michael Stanley (1933-     ) | Democratic | Massachusetts:  111  [1988]
•Edwards, John Reid (1953-     ) | Democratic | North Carolina:  1  [2004]
•Eisenhower, Dwight David (1890-1969) | Republican | New York:  899  [1952; 1956]
•Ellsworth, Oliver (1745-1807) | Federalist | Connecticut:  11  [1796]
•Fillmore, Millard (1800-1874) | Whig, American/Know-Nothing | New York:  8  [1856]
•Floyd, John (1783-1837) | Independent Democrat/Nullifier | Virginia:  11  [1832]
•Ford, Gerald Rudolph (1913-2006) | Republican | Michigan:  240  [1976]
•Frémont, John Charles (1813-1890) | Republican | California:  114  [1856]
•Garfield, James Abram (1831-1881) | Republican | Ohio:  214  [1880]
•Goldwater, Barry Morris (1909-1998) | Republican | Arizona:  52  [1964]
•Gore, Albert Arnold (1948-     ) | Democratic | Tennessee:  266  [2000]
•Grant, Ulysses Simpson (1822-1885) | Republican | Illinois:  500  [1868; 1872]
•Hancock, John (1737-1793) | Federalist | Massachusetts:  4  [1789]
•Hancock, Winfield Scott (1824-1886) | Democratic | Pennsylvania:  155  [1880]
•Harding, Warren Gamaliel (1865-1923) | Republican | Ohio:  404  [1920]
•Harrison, Benjamin (1833-1901) | Republican | Indiana:  378  [1888; 1892]
•Harrison, Robert Hanson (1745-1790) | Federalist | Maryland:  6  [1789]
•Harrison, William Henry (1773-1841) | Whig | Ohio:  307  [1836; 1840]
•Hayes, Rutherford Birchard (1822-1893) | Republican | Ohio:  185  [1876]
•Hendricks, Thomas Andrews (1819-1885) | Democratic | Indiana:  42  [1872]
•Henry, John (1750-1798) | Democratic-Republican | Maryland:  2  [1796]
•Hoover, Herbert Clark (1874-1964) | Republican | California:  503  [1928; 1932]
•Hospers, John (1918-2011) | Libertarian | California:  1  [1972]
•Hughes, Charles Evans (1862-1948) | Republican | New York:  254  [1916]
•Humphrey, Hubert Horatio (1911-1978) | Democratic | Minnesota:  191  [1968]
•Huntington, Samuel (1731-1796) | Federalist | Connecticut:  2  [1789]
•Iredell, James (1751-1799) | Federalist | North Carolina:  3  [1796]
•Jackson, Andrew (1767-1845) | Democratic-Republican, Democratic | Tennessee:  496  [1824; 1828; 1832]
•Jay, John (1745-1829) | Federalist | New York:  15  [1789; 1796; 1800]
•Jefferson, Thomas (1743-1826) | Democratic-Republican | Virginia:  307  [1792; 1796; 1800; 1804]
•Jenkins, Charles Jones (1805-1883) | Democratic | Georgia:  2  [1872]
•Johnson, Lyndon Baines (1908-1973) | Democratic | Texas:  486  [1964]
•Johnston, Samuel (1733-1816) | Federalist | North Carolina:  2  [1796]
•Kennedy, John Fitzgerald (1917-1963) | Democratic | Massachusetts:  303  [1960]
•Kerry, John Forbes (1943-     ) | Democratic | Massachusetts:  251  [2004]
•King, Rufus (1755-1827) | Federalist | New York:  34  [1816]
•LaFollette, Robert Marion, Sr. (1855-1925) | Progressive | Wisconsin:  13  [1924]
•Landon, Alfred Mossman (1887-1987) | Republican | Kansas:  8  [1936]
•Lincoln, Abraham (1809-1865) | Republican | Illinois:  392  [1860; 1864]
•Lincoln, Benjamin (1733-1810) | Federalist | Massachusetts:  1  [1789]
•Madison, James (1751-1836) | Democratic-Republican | Virginia:  250  [1808; 1812]
•Mangum, Willie Person (1792-1861) | Whig | North Carolina:  11  [1836]
•McCain, John Sidney (1936-     ) | Republican | Arizona:  173  [2008]
•McClellan, George Brinton (1826-1885) | Democratic | New Jersey:  21  [1864]
•McGovern, George Stanley (1922-     ) | Democratic | South Dakota:  17  [1972]
•McKinley, William (1843-1901) | Republican | Ohio:  563  [1896; 1900]
•Milton, John (1757-1817) | Federalist | Georgia:  2  [1789]
•Mondale, Walter Frederick (1928-     ) | Democratic | Minnesota:  13  [1984]
•Monroe, James (1758-1831) | Democratic-Republican | Virginia:  414  [1816; 1820]
•Nixon, Richard Milhous (1913-1994) | Republican | California:  1,040  [1960; 1968; 1972]
•Obama, Barack Hussein (1961-     ) | Democratic | Illinois:  365  [2008]
•Parker, Alton Brooks (1852-1926) | Democratic | New York:  140  [1904]
•Pierce, Franklin (1804-1869) | Democratic | New Hampshire:  254  [1852]
•Pinckney, Charles Cotesworth (1746-1825) | Federalist | South Carolina:  126  [1796; 1800; 1804; 1808]
•Pinckney, Thomas (1750-1828) | Federalist | South Carolina:  59  [1796]
•Polk, James Knox (1795-1849) | Democratic | Tennessee:  170  [1844]
•Reagan, Ronald Wilson (1911-2004) | Republican | California:  1,015  [1976; 1980; 1984]
•Roosevelt, Franklin Delano (1882-1945) | Democratic | New York:  1,876  [1932; 1936; 1940; 1944]
•Roosevelt, Theodore (1858-1919) | Republican, Progressive/Bull Moose | New York:  424  [1904; 1912]
•Rutledge, John (1739-1800) | Federalist | South Carolina: 6  [1789]
•Scott, Winfield (1786-1866) | Whig | New Jersey:  42  [1852]
•Seymour, Horatio (1810-1886) | Democratic | New York:  80  [1868]
•Smith, Alfred Emanuel (1873-1944) | Democratic | New York:  87  [1928]
•Stevenson, Adlai Ewing (1900-1965) | Democratic | Illinois:  162  [1952; 1956]
•Taft, William Howard (1857-1930) | Republican | Ohio:  329  [1908; 1912]
•Taylor, Zachary (1784-1850) | Whig | Louisiana:  163  [1848]
•Telfair, Edward (1735-1807) | Anti-Federalist | Georgia:  1  [1789]
•Thurmond, (James) Strom (1903-2003) | States’ Rights/Dixiecrat | South Carolina:  39  [1948]
•Tilden, Samuel Jones (1814-1886) | Democratic | New York:  184  [1876]
•Truman, Harry S. (1884-1972) | Democratic | Missouri:  303  [1948]
•Van Buren, Martin (1782-1862) | Democratic | New York:  230  [1836; 1840]
•Wallace, George Corley (1919-1998) | American Independent | Alabama:  46  [1968]
•Washington, George (1732-1799) | Federalist | Virginia:  203  [1789; 1792; 1796]
•Weaver, James Baird (1833-1912) | Populist | Iowa:  22  [1892]
•Webster, Daniel (1782-1852) | Whig | Massachusetts:  14  [1836]
•White, Hugh Lawson (1773-1840) | Whig | Tennessee:  26  [1836]
•Willkie, Wendell Lewis (1892-1944) | Republican | Indiana:  82  [1940]
•Wilson, (Thomas) Woodrow (1856-1924) | Democratic | New Jersey:  712  [1912; 1916]
•Wirt, William (1772-1834) | Anti-Masonic | Maryland:  7  [1832]

Here is Part IV (1960-Present) of a look at every person in American history who has received an Electoral Vote for President of the United States.

1960
•John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917-1963) | Democratic | Massachusetts:  303
•Richard Milhous Nixon (1913-1994) | Republican | California:  219

1964
•Lyndon Baines Johnson (1908-1973) | Democratic | Texas:  486
•Barry Morris Goldwater (1909-1998) | Republican | Arizona:  52

1968
•Richard Milhous Nixon (1913-1994) | Republican | California:  301
•Hubert Horatio Humphrey (1911-1978) | Democratic | Minnesota:  191
•George Corley Wallace (1919-1998) | American Independent | Alabama:  46

1972
•Richard Milhous Nixon (1913-1994) | Republican | California:  520
•George Stanley McGovern (1922-     ) | Democratic | South Dakota:  17
•John Hospers (1918-2011) | Libertarian | California:  1  (Received the vote of a faithless elector)

1976
•Jimmy Carter (1924-     ) | Democratic | Georgia:  297
•Gerald Rudolph Ford (1913-2006) | Republican | Michigan:  240
•Ronald Wilson Reagan (1911-2004) | Republican | California:  1  (Recieved the vote of a faithless elector)

1980
•Ronald Wilson Reagan (1911-2004) | Republican | California:  489
•Jimmy Carter (1924-     ) | Democratic | Georgia:  49

1984
•Ronald Wilson Reagan (1911-2004) | Republican | California:  525
•Walter Frederick Mondale (1928-     ) | Democratic | Minnesota:  13

1988
•George Herbert Walker Bush (1924-     ) | Republican | Texas:  426
•Michael Stanley Dukakis (1933-     ) | Democratic | Massachusetts:  111
•Lloyd Millard Bentsen (1921-2006) | Democratic | Texas:  1 (Received the vote of a faithless elector)

1992
•William Jefferson Clinton (1946-     ) | Democratic | Arkansas:  370
•George Herbert Walker Bush (1924-     ) | Republican | Texas:  168

1996
•William Jefferson Clinton (1946-     ) | Democratic | Arkansas:  379
•Robert Joseph Dole (1923-     ) | Republican | Kansas:  159

2000
•George Walker Bush (1946-     ) | Republican | Texas:  271
•Albert Arnold Gore (1948-     ) | Democratic | Tennessee:  266

2004
•George Walker Bush (1946-     ) | Republican | Texas:  286
•John Forbes Kerry (1943-     ) | Democratic | Massachusetts:  251
•John Reid Edwards (1953-     ) | Democratic | North Carolina:  1  (Received the vote of a faithless elector)

2008
•Barack Hussein Obama (1961-     ) | Democratic | Illinois:  365
•John Sidney McCain (1936-     ) | Republican | Arizona:  173

2012
Barack Hussein Obama (1961-     ) | Democratic | Illinois vs. (Willard) Mitt Romney (1947-     ) | Republican | Massachusetts

Here is Part III (1904-1956) of a look at every person in American history who has received an Electoral Vote for President of the United States.

1904
•Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) | Republican | New York:  336
•Alton Brooks Parker (1852-1926) | Democratic | New York:  140

1908
•William Howard Taft (1857-1930) | Republican | Ohio:  321
•William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925) | Democratic | Nebraska:  162

1912
•(Thomas) Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) | Democratic | New Jersey:  435
•Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) | Progressive/Bull Moose | New York:  88
•William Howard Taft (1857-1930) | Republican | Ohio:  8

1916
•(Thomas) Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) | Democratic | New Jersey:  277
•Charles Evans Hughes (1862-1948) | Republican | New York:  254

1920
•Warren Gamaliel Harding (1865-1923) | Republican | Ohio:  404
•James Middleton Cox (1870-1957) | Democratic | Ohio:  127

1924
•(John) Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933) | Republican | Massachusetts:  382
•John William Davis (1873-1955) | Democratic | West Virginia:  136
•Robert Marion LaFollette, Sr. (1855-1925) | Progressive | Wisconsin:  13

1928
•Herbert Clark Hoover (1874-1964) | Republican | California:  444
•Alfred Emanuel Smith (1873-1944) | Democratic | New York:  87

1932
•Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) | Democratic | New York:  472
•Herbert Clark Hoover (1874-1964) | Republican | California:  59

1936
•Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) | Democratic | New York:  523
•Alfred Mossman Landon (1887-1987) | Republican | Kansas:  8

1940
•Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) | Democratic | New York:  449
•Wendell Lewis Willkie (1892-1944) | Republican | Indiana:  82

1944
•Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) | Democratic | New York:  432
•Thomas Edmund Dewey (1902-1971) | Republican | New York:  99

1948
•Harry S. Truman (1884-1972) | Democratic | Missouri:  303
•Thomas Edmund Dewey (1902-1971) | Republican | New York:  189
•(James) Strom Thurmond (1903-2003) | States’ Rights/Dixiecrat | South Carolina:  39

1952
•Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) | Republican | New York:  442
•Adlai Ewing Stevenson (1900-1965) | Democratic | Illinois:  89

1956
•Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) | Republican | New York:  457
•Adlai Ewing Stevenson (1900-1965) | Democratic | Illinois:  73

Here is Part II (1860-1900) of a look at every person in American history who has received an Electoral Vote for President of the United States.

1860
•Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) | Republican | Illinois:  180
•John Cabell Breckinridge (1821-1875) | National Democrat | Kentucky:  72
•John Bell (1796-1869) | Constitutional Union | Tennessee:  39
•Stephen Arnold Douglas (1813-1861) | Democratic | Illinois:  12

1864
•Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) | Republican | Illinois:  212
•George Brinton McClellan (1826-1885) | Democratic | New Jersey:  21

1868
•Ulysses Simpson Grant (1822-1885) | Republican | Illinois:  214
•Horatio Seymour (1810-1886) | Democratic | New York:  80

1872
•Ulysses Simpson Grant (1822-1885) | Republican | Illinois:  286
•Horace Greeley (1811-1872) | Liberal Republican | New York:  66
Horace Greeley died after the general election but before the meeting of the Electoral College, so the 66 Electoral votes that he would have been awarded were divided to the following candidates:
•Thomas Andrews Hendricks (1819-1885) | Democratic | Indiana:  42 
•Benjamin Gratz Brown (1826-1885) | National Union Party | Missouri:  18
•Charles Jones Jenkins (1805-1883) } Democratic | Georgia:  2
•David Davis (1815-1886) | Liberal Republican | Illinois:  1
•3 Electoral votes awarded to Greeley were not counted by Congress due to Greeley’s death

1876
•Rutherford Birchard Hayes (1822-1893) | Republican | Ohio:  185
•Samuel Jones Tilden (1814-1886) | Democratic | New York:  184

1880
•James Abram Garfield (1831-1881) | Republican | Ohio:  214
•Winfield Scott Hancock (1824-1886) | Democratic | Pennsylvania:  155

1884
•(Stephen) Grover Cleveland (1837-1908) | Democratic | New York:  219
•James Gillespie Blaine (1830-1893) | Republican | Maine:  182

1888
•Benjamin Harrison (1833-1901) | Republican | Indiana:  233
•(Stephen) Grover Cleveland (1837-1908) | Democratic | New York:  168

1892
•(Stephen) Grover Cleveland (1837-1908) | Democratic | New York:  277
•Benjamin Harrison (1833-1901) | Republican | Indiana:  145
•James Baird Weaver (1833-1912) | Populist | Iowa:  22

1896
•William McKinley (1843-1901) | Republican | Ohio:  271
•William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925) | Democratic | Nebraska: 176

1900
•William McKinley (1843-1901) | Republican | Ohio:  292
•William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925) | Democratic | Nebraska:  155

Here is Part I (1789-1856) of a look at every person in American history who has received an Electoral Vote for President of the United States.

1789
•George Washington (1732-1799) | Federalist | Virginia:  69
•John Adams (1735-1826) | Federalist | Massachusetts:  34
•John Jay (1745-1829) | Federalist | New York:  9
•Robert Hanson Harrison (1745-1790) | Federalist | Maryland:  6
•John Rutledge (1739-1800) | Federalist | South Carolina:  6
•John Hancock (1737-1793) | Federalist | Massachusetts:  4
•George Clinton (1739-1812) | Anti-Federalist | New York:  3
•Samuel Huntington (1731-1796) | Federalist | Connecticut:  2
•John Milton (1757-1817) | Federalist | Georgia:  2
•James Armstrong (1728-1800) | Federalist | Georgia:  1
•Benjamin Lincoln (1733-1810) | Federalist | Massachusetts:  1
•Edward Telfair (1735-1807) | Anti-Federalist | Georgia:  1

1792
•George Washington (1732-1799) | Federalist | Virginia:  132
•John Adams (1735-1826) | Federalist | Massachusetts:  77
•George Clinton (1739-1812) | Democratic-Republican | New York:  50
•Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) | Democratic-Republican | Virginia:  4
•Aaron Burr (1756-1836) | Democratic-Republican | New York:  1

1796
•John Adams (1735-1826) | Federalist | Massachusetts:  71
•Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) | Democratic-Republican | Virginia:  68
•Thomas Pinckney (1750-1828) | Federalist | South Carolina:  59
•Aaron Burr (1756-1836) | Democratic-Republican | New York:  30
•Samuel Adams (1722-1803) | Democratic-Republican | Massachusetts:  15
•Oliver Ellsworth (1745-1807) | Federalist | Connecticut:  11
•George Clinton (1739-1812) | Democratic-Republican | New York:  7
•John Jay (1745-1829) | Federalist | New York:  5
•James Iredell (1751-1799) | Federalist | North Carolina:  3
•Samuel Johnston (1733-1816) | Federalist | North Carolina:  2
•John Henry (1750-1798) | Democratic-Republican | Maryland:  2
•George Washington (1732-1799) | Federalist | Virginia:  2
•Charles Cotesworth Pinckney (1746-1825) | Federalist | South Carolina:  1

1800
•Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) | Democratic-Republican | Virginia:  73
•Aaron Burr (1756-1836) | Democratic-Republican | New York:  73
•John Adams (1735-1826) | Federalist | Massachusetts:  65
•Charles Cotesworth Pinckney (1746-1825) | Federalist | South Carolina:  64
•John Jay (1745-1829) | Federalist | New York:  1

1804
•Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) | Democratic-Republican | Virginia:  162
•Charles Cotesworth Pinckney (1746-1825) | Federalist | South Carolina:  14

1808
•James Madison (1751-1836) | Democratic-Republican | Virginia:  122
•Charles Cotesworth Pinckney (1746-1825) | Federalist | South Carolina:  47
•George Clinton (1739-1812) | Democratic-Republican | New York:  6

1812
•James Madison (1751-1836) | Democratic-Republican | Virginia:  128
•DeWitt Clinton (1769-1828) | Federalist | New York:  89

1816
•James Monroe (1758-1831) | Democratic-Republican | Virginia:  183
•Rufus King (1755-1827) | Federalist | New York:  34

1820
•James Monroe (1758-1831) | Democratic-Republican | Virginia:  231
•John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) | Democratic-Republican | Massachusetts:  1

1824
(No candidate received the requisite number of Electoral Votes for victory, so the election was decided in favor of John Quincy Adams by the U.S. House of Representatives)
•Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) | Democratic-Republican | Tennessee:  99
•John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) | Democratic-Republican | Massachusetts:  84
•William Harris Crawford (1772-1834) | Democratic-Republican | Georgia:  41
•Henry Clay (1777-1852) | Democratic-Republican | Kentucky:  37

1828
•Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) | Democratic | Tennessee:  178
•John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) | National Republican | Massachusetts:  83

1832
•Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) | Democratic | Tennessee:  219
•Henry Clay (1777=1852) | National Republican | Kentucky:  49
•John Floyd (1783-1837) | Independent Democrat/Nullifier | Virginia:  11
•William Wirt (1772-1834) | Anti-Masonic | Maryland:  7

1836
•Martin Van Buren (1782-1862) | Democratic | New York:  170
•William Henry Harrison (1773-1841) | Whig | Ohio:  73
•Hugh Lawson White (1773-1840) | Whig | Tennessee:  26
•Daniel Webster (1782-1852) | Whig | Massachusetts:  14
•Willie Person Mangum (1792-1861) | Whig | North Carolina:  11

1840
•William Henry Harrison (1773-1841) | Whig | Ohio:  234
•Martin Van Buren (1782-1862) | Democratic | New York:  60

1844
•James Knox Polk (1795-1849) | Democratic | Tennessee:  170
•Henry Clay (1777-1852) | Whig | Kentucky:  105

1848
•Zachary Taylor (1784-1850) | Whig | Louisiana:  163
•Lewis Cass (1782-1866) | Democratic | Michigan:  127

1852
•Franklin Pierce (1804-1869) | Democratic | New Hampshire:  254
•Winfield Scott (1786-1866) | Whig | New Jersey:  42

1856
•James Buchanan (1791-1868) | Democratic | Pennsylvania:  174
•John Charles Frémont (1813-1890) | Republican | California:  114
•Millard Fillmore (1800-1874) | American/Know-Nothing | New York:  8

From time-to-time, I go to the 270 TO WIN website and use their interactive Electoral College map to project what I think the result of the Presidential election will be.  My process isn’t terribly scientific.  Some states are obvious and I use state-by-state polling, the articles I read, the momentum I sense, and my own political instincts (which are actually pretty damn good) to project the race.

This is something that I’ve been doing probably once every two weeks since the 2010 midterm elections, and I’m pretty confident in my abilities and feel that my projections are pretty accurate.  A Presidential election is in a constant state of movement, so what the map looked like in March is far different from what the map looks like today.  It will probably look even more different after the Republican Convention and then have another shift after the Democratic Convention.  Election Day is still a long way away in political time.

HOWEVER…I’ve been using the map on 270 TO WIN for nearly two years now.  I always keep up to tabs on what is going on, and I look at the only polling that actually matters in Presidential politics — the state-by-state numbers.  And, tonight, when I did my projections, this is what happened, for the very first time:

Again — these are my projections and not any sort of official, scientific tabulation.  It’s just the opinion of an observer who studies things very closely and has always had very good political instincts.  And, like I said, Election Day is a long way away in political campaign time.  But, I will say that…in my opinion…if the Presidential campaign took place tomorrow…(*deep breath*…I can’t believe I’m saying this)…Mitt Romney would win.

Feel free to go make your projections on the interactive Electoral College map at 270 TO WIN.  These projections can all change tomorrow (and hopefully do), but it’s also important to remember that we’re heading into the week of the Republican National Convention and Romney/Ryan will almost certainly come out of Tampa with the traditional convention bump in the polls, so things are getting interesting.

Here’s my full Electoral College map with my projections if the campaign ended tomorrow:

Before the Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in 1804, Presidential elections did not feature separate Electoral voting to distinguish the President and Vice President.  Presidential Electors had two votes with the idea that one vote was for their Presidential choice and one vote was for their Vice Presidential choice, although there was nothing to differentiate the votes from one another.

In the 1788, 1792, 1796, and 1800 elections, the candidate who received the most Electoral votes was elected President and the candidate who received the second-most Electoral votes was elected Vice President.  This led to much confusion and clever manipulation of the process.  In 1796 the President-elect (John Adams) and Vice President-elect (Thomas Jefferson) were the leading Presidential candidates of different political parties.  In 1800, Aaron Burr — supposedly the Vice Presidential running mate of Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans — nearly used the messy Electoral College to propel himself into the Presidency instead.

But the crazy 1796 election featured a bit of history likely never to be repeated.  While brothers from the Kennedy family sought the Presidency during various election cycles, the Pinckney brothers of South Carolina had two brothers who actually won Electoral votes in the same Presidential election. 

Thomas Pinckney, the former Governor of South Carolina and just the second American to serve as Ambassador to Great Britain, returned to the U.S. to run as a Federalist Party candidate in the 1796 Presidential election.  The Federalists intended for Pinckney to win the Vice Presidency by finishing second in the Electoral College results behind the Federalist Party’s intended Presidential candidate, John Adams.  In order for that to happen, almost every Elector who cast one vote for Adams was supposed to cast their other vote for Pinckney.  In order to ensure that Adams would be elected President (by finishing first) and Pinckney would be elected Vice President (by finishing second), one or two Electors who cast one vote for Adams was supposed to cast their other vote for someone other than Pinckney, just to be safe.

Confused yet?  Yeah, so were the Electors.

Adams did finish with the most Electoral votes, but not enough Electors cast their second vote for Pinckney.  The Presidential Electors didn’t meet in the same place to cast their votes; instead, they met in their own home states, which made it impossible to communicate and coordinate their strategy.  Instead of Pinckney finishing second and winning the Vice Presidency, he finished third and out of the running.  It was Thomas Jefferson — the Democratic-Republican candidate for President and top rival of Adams — who finished second and claimed the Vice Presidency.  In last place, with just one Electoral vote, was Thomas Pinckney’s older brother, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney.  Charles Cotesworth wasn’t an official candidate in 1796, but one Elector voted for him anyway — the only time in American History that two brothers received Electoral votes in the same Presidential election.

Thomas Pinckney never sought the Presidency or Vice Presidency again; he was elected to two terms in the House of Representatives and served as a Major General in the Army during the War of 1812.  Charles Cotesworth Pinckney may have received less Electoral votes than his younger brother in 1796, but his career was even more distinguished than Thomas’s.  Charles Cotesworth signed the Constitution, battled the British in the American South during the Revolutionary War, and was a prisoner of war for over two years.  After a stint in Europe as U.S. Minister to France, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney was the unsuccessful running mate of John Adams in 1800 and was nominated twice to be the Federalist Party’s candidate for President.  He was unsuccessful on both occasions, losing to Jefferson in 1804 and James Madison in 1808. 

Charles Cotesworth Pinckney died in 1825 and Thomas died in 1828.  The Twelfth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified in 1804 and fixed the early problems in the Electoral College which robbed Thomas Pinckney of the Vice Presidency in 1796.  Beginning with the 1804 election between Jefferson and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, Electors have distinct votes for President and Vice President, making it virtually impossible for them to be from different political parties.

Hey, I ADORE your tumblr. I'm always looking forward to your newest posts. Having said that, I was wondering if you could answer a question I had for a while now. With the electoral system in the U.S. like it is (I'm Canadian), would it be possible for a presidential candidate to be elected but not the VP running mate, and vice versa? It would be very unlikely, but is it a possible occurrence, or does the Electoral college elect the ticket? Thank you.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Silly Canadians.

No, I’m just kidding.  We really do have a strange system and it doesn’t help that for the first few elections in our history (Washington, Adams, Jefferson) the Electoral College did work differently.  At that time, the person who came in second in the Electoral vote count was the Vice President.  This meant, in the case of Adams and Jefferson for example, that President Adams’s Vice President was his opponent in the 1796 election.  Imagine if that happened today?  The runner-up was the Vice President.  It would be a mess, and was a mess, which is why they changed the process with the Twelfth Amendment after the raucous election of 1800 (blame Aaron Burr, we blame him for everything else anyway).

Today, the Presidential and Vice Presidential electoral votes are awarded in such a way that I believe it is impossible for running mates not to be elected together.  Now, I could technically be wrong and there may be some loopholes that would allow something different, but I think it’s highly unlikely.  There are such things as “faithless electors”, which are Presidential electors who are chosen by the people of a state to award a vote to a certain candidate, but whom disregard the instructions of their voters and award the vote to someone else.  For example, in 1976 a Presidential elector from Washington was pledged to vote for Gerald Ford, but instead awarded his electoral vote to Ronald Reagan.  I am assuming that there is a loophole that would technically allow “faithless electors” to band together and faithlessly elect someone else, but I don’t think it would stand Constitutionally.

Good question.  The Electoral College is a very complex system and it’s always good to discuss it further and help clarify questions about it.  Unfortunately, in the process, I usually end up asking myself more questions about the system afterward.

Asker bbkld Asks:
One of my history teachers said the Electoral College was created because the Founding Fathers didn't trust the American electorate and that it was a ploy to keep the final decision in the hands of the educated elite (far fewer then than there are today). Was my teacher right?
And do you think we should change the way we elect the President and VP? And how?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I don’t think that your teacher is totally correct.  If the Founding Fathers were so distrustful of the American electorate, I doubt that they would have worked so hard to preserve a balance of power between the people and the states.

The Electoral College is archaic, confusing, and downright odd.  With that said, there is very good reasoning behind it.  The idea behind the Electoral College is that the Constitution is based on a government powered equally by the population of the country and the confederation of independent states which make up the United States.  The Founders saw the country as just that — a confederation — so they were careful to designate a balance between individuals and the states themselves.

The Senate is the representative body of the states.  The House is the representative body of the people or population.  If you gave all the power to the people or to the states, you wouldn’t have the specific form of government that our Founders were aiming for.  If, as the Virginia Plan suggested, the national or state legislatures voted for the President, we would have a parliamentary democracy, especially now with the evolution of political parties (which didn’t exist at the time of the drafting of the Constitution).

The Electoral College, then, is a system for electing a President which gives representation to the people and the states, even if it seems indirect.  Presidential electors are equal to the number of representatives allocated to each state (by population) plus two (to represent the Senators from each state).  The Electoral College is confusing, but it guards against sectionalism and what James Madison called “overbearing majorities”.  With a balanced and weighted system for Presidential elections, there is less chance of a faction or special interest taking hold of the Presidency because there is no inequality among the states or the people when it comes to the worth of their votes.

There are, of course, problems with the system.  One of the big reasons for the Electoral College, then and now, is that it gives equal proportion to voters who live in cities as well as voters who live in rural areas.  A candidate for the Presidency — the nation’s highest office — should have to win support from a vast area of the country instead of dominating regionally and gaining enough votes to win a simple majority.  The Electoral College encourages the need for a Presidential candidate to win a wide-range of support geographically and demographically in order to win election.

With that said, there is the problem of simple mathematics.  There are 50 states but, technically, a candidate can be elected President by winning only 11 states and losing the other 39.  Victory in the Electoral College only requires a simple majority, so the person who reaches 270 votes is the winner.  If a candidate won only California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Georgia, New Jersey, and North Carolina and lost EVERY OTHER state, they would still be elected President.  I don’t know if there’s a remedy for that, though.

The Electoral College is probably flawed and it’s totally unexplainable to most people, but it’s the system that has worked for over 200 years and, quite frankly, it’s worked pretty well.  I think it accurately represents the will of the country, so I don’t see a need for it to be overhauled or changed.  I think that if anyone could have imagined a better, more balanced, more easily understandable system of Presidential elections in a federal republic, it would have been the people who invented our federal republic. 

Asker blogara Asks:
If you haven't already, would you care to shed some light on the highly contested 1876 election? Since I'm asking a rather open-ended question, you may answer it however you wish: give a general overview, describe one facet of the dramatic affair you find intriguing, whatever. Thank you.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

First of all, the most intriguing thing is how similar the crazy 1876 election was to the crazy 2000 election right down to Florida being the epicenter of disputed electoral votes, the winner receiving less votes than the loser, a Republican coming out ahead of a Democrat in the end, and the fact that each election was ultimately decided by a party-line vote in a forum that wasn’t intended to settle disputed electoral vote counts by the Constitution (the Electoral Commission in 1876 and the Supreme Court in 2000).

The MOST intriguing thing about 1876 was that the election wasn’t settled until two days before Inauguration Day.  We thought the 2000 election was drawn-out because it wasn’t decided until December.  With the Rutherford B. Hayes vs. Samuel J. Tilden election, votes were cast nationwide on November 7, 1876.  Inauguration Day was March 4, 1877.  For nearly four months, the nation didn’t know who would replace President Grant and Hayes and Tilden had no idea which one of them would become the 19th President of the United States.

The Electoral Commission was formed at the end of January but the electoral dispute was not finalized (or, as most believe, compromised) until March 2, 1877.  President Grant was so worried that there would be trouble with his replacement that he insisted that Rutherford B. Hayes — who had been declared the winner of the election by just one electoral vote (185-184) — come to the White House on March 3rd and be secretly sworn in to office, just in case.  Everything worked out fine — another credit to the American political system — and Hayes was sworn in publicly the next day, too.

Tilden would have been a much different President than Hayes and was probably much more qualified.  It’s impossible to say whether Tilden would have been better.  It’s also impossible to say how much longer Reconstruction would have lasted under a President Tilden and a Republican Congress with nothing to compromise about. 

Many people say that Hayes stole the election from Tilden because the Electoral Commission voted along party lines to hand the election to Hayes.  Quite frankly, Hayes probably should have won more electoral votes than he was credited with.  Many black voters who were given the right to vote after the Civil War (yes…blacks were technically given the right to vote immediately after the Civil War) found themselves disenfranchised in the South.  Almost all of those black votes would have gone to Hayes who, as a Republican, belonged to the party of Lincoln.  Tilden won states where black votes were either not counted or not allowed that he almost certainly would have lost if the black voters had not been disenfranchised.