Editor’s note: This version replaces a previously published version at the author’s request.
NEVADA CITY, Calif. October 28, 2016 – “I wanted Bernie; he was treated badly by the Democrats so I’M NOT VOTING.”
“I see no difference between Hillary and Trump so I’M NOT VOTING.”
“It doesn’t matter who wins; the shadow government has it all decided already so I’M NOT VOTING.”
“Hillary will win…Trump was a set-up to make sure she would win so I’M NOT VOTING.”
“I’m disgusted with this election and the government so I’M NOT VOTING.
“I’m voting for a third party candidate as a protest vote.”
“I’m writing in Bernie Sanders”
“I’m not voting for President or Vice President but I’m voting for everything else”
If any of these describe the way you are feeling right now, you are not alone; I also felt that way until I decided to research something I realized I did not fully understand and that is the way the President and Vice President are REALLY elected…and that leads to the Electoral College.
Using California as an Example:
* The Electoral College elects, by voting, the President and Vice President every four years.
* Who votes? The “Electors” vote AFTER the “Popular” vote on Nov. 8 is over and the ballots have been counted. Each state has a certain number of “Electoral Votes” based on population numbers. California has 55 Electoral Votes.
* Who choses the Electors? The Electors are “selected” by the Party Committee or chosen at the National Convention of each Party. 55 Republican Electors are selected by the Republican Party. 55 Democratic Electors are selected by the Democratic Party. Third parties may also choose electors.
* How is it determined which Party will use their 55 Electoral votes? It is determined by the Popular vote of each state. The Party that wins over 50% of the popular vote gets all 55 Electoral votes from California. The other (losing) parties do not get ANY electoral votes.
* Can Electors vote for a candidate from a different Party? No. They make a “pledge” at the time they are chosen to vote for their Parties Candidate. Their votes are not secret, which insures that the pledge is upheld. There have been what is called a “faithless vote” in the past, but only a few in the long history of the Electoral College.
* What happens to Third Party Votes and Write In votes? Nothing. The Electors of California will award all 55 Electoral votes to the party with more than 50% of the popular vote. Third parties and write-in votes rarely get more than a single digit percentage of the popular vote held on Nov. 8.
* How many Electoral votes will it take to win the Presidential Election? 270.
There have been exceptions to some of these, but so few that I will not discuss them here. The Electoral College system may not be ideal, but it is what we have RIGHT NOW and it will not change for this Presidential race so let’s understand it and work within it for this election.
When you vote in the Popular Election, you are REALLY voting to tell 55 Electors what to do. If your chosen candidate does not get over 50% of the popular vote, your candidate will not win the 55 Electoral votes from California. It’s a winner take all race. Since the Electoral votes are the votes that elect the President, these are the only votes that ultimately count and they are determined by YOUR popular vote on November 8.
The election process in this country was long ago set up as a two party system. The Electoral College process is a reflection of that firm two party system. Sadly, votes for a third party candidate and write in votes and choosing to not vote at all are, in truth, “throw away” votes. These votes are called “throw away” votes because the percentages of these votes are so low. While these votes do not ADD to the 50% needed by another party, they certainly do SUBTRACT from a candidate, which leads to a discussion of:
The Lesser of Two Evils
If you know that any third party or write in candidate in this election year is absolutely not going to win the election, then you know that by voting in that way you are making a statement rather than voting, however, who will know what that statement is? You may say the statement is that you agree more with the policies of a third party candidate, Stein or Johnson, for example. However, once the election is over, and your vote is just a statistic, Stein or Johnson will have no way to execute their policies within the government you are going to have for the next four years.
Volumes have been written about the “lesser of two evils” choice when it comes to voting. I tend to agree with Julia Maskivker, a professor of Political Theory at Rollins College, who wrote, “If we have a duty of aid toward society, our duty becomes even more stringent when there are real prospects that a scarily unpredictable leader would take power, a candidate who, if elected, could harm society. Under such circumstances, the duty to vote for the lesser evil would be a very serious one. We cannot expect others to act on society’s behalf if we will not do so ourselves. Thus, voting for the lesser evil is not a lesser action. Morally, it is the right thing to do.”
If the outcome of the election is set, as it is in California with Clinton leading Trump two to one, a protest vote might have the most effect.
A case could also be made that voting for the lesser of two evils is short sighted, and in the long run this practice will serve to further corrupt our democracy.
That said, I am not ashamed to say that as a Republican-leaning voter I voted for Clinton because I don’t consider Trump an option.
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