Just a reminder: when you cast your ballot on November 6 (or as early as tomorrow, if you feel like your mind is made up on all the choices), the choice you make relative to a pair of running-mates for President and Vice President of the United States technically is not cast for the candidates.
The ballot entries for these offices start with the words “Electors for.” That’s who you vote for. Then there is a second election (on December 17) which only involves these appointed electors. The electors are not named, of course, but their number is of utmost importance. The Twelfth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides in part that
The Electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and all persons voted for as Vice-President and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate.
The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted.
So that’s who actually votes for the candidates. A candidate for President must receive at least 270 electoral votes to win. Were the electors to tie 269-269, the U.S. House of Representatives would choose the President, in a special process wherein each state gets one vote. (The Vice President would, under these circumstances, be chosen by the U.S. Senate. And the sitting Vice President is officially the President of the Senate, who could cast a tie-breaking vote if it ever came to that.)
So in a nation of well over 300 million persons, a mere few hundred decide the executive officeholders. But of course each voter in every state gets to appoint the electors who cast the votes for President and Vice President in that second election, just as we cast our votes for the members of Congress who’d handle the duties in the event of an Electoral College tie.
In Tennessee, our electors would break the law if they voted for someone other than whom the popular vote indicated (with an exception for death of a candidate). That’s not true in all states.
Bonus question: who are Tennessee’s would-be Electors in 2012? By my count there should be 77 Elector-candidates vying to be the eleven final Electors, since there are seven presidential tickets on the ballot. I could probably name some of the Democratic and Republican Elector-candidates, since these are typically party officials and high-ranking elected officials. But who are the others?
Here are the ballot entries:
- Electors for MITT ROMNEY, for President
and PAUL RYAN, for Vice President
Republican Party Nominee
- Electors for BARACK OBAMA, for President
and JOE BIDEN, for Vice President
Democratic Party Nominee
- Electors for VIRGIL GOODE, for President
and JIM CLYMER, for Vice President
Constitution Party Nominee
- Electors for JILL STEIN, for President
and CHERI HONKALA, for Vice President
Green Party Nominee
- Electors for ROSS C. “ROCKY” ANDERSON, for President
and LUIS J. RODRIGUEZ, for Vice President
- Electors for GARY JOHNSON, for President
and JAMES P. GRAY, for Vice President
- Electors for MERLIN MILLER, for President
and VIRGINIA D. ABERNETHY, for Vice President