Wow the electoral vote process works

Dwight Williamson - Guest Columnist

Dwight Williamson Guest Columnist

What kind of nightmarish Christmas present would it be if in December Logan Countians woke up to find out that Donald Trump did NOT win the office of President of the United States?

Most people probably do not realize that, technically, the election is not official until the Electoral College votes are all counted, and that won’t happen until the middle of next month. Believe it or not, there were about seven million popular votes still to be counted as of just the other day (Wednesday). With most of the votes to be counted located in liberal coastal states, especially California and Washington, it is expected that Hillary Clinton’s already 1.5 million vote lead will rise considerably.

Understandably, there is much confusion with the average voters, who simply do not understand just how the electoral vote process works, or even (for some people) what it is. Here’s some history behind the electoral process—a process that many people do not even believe should exist.

To begin with, there have only been four times when the president elected did not win the popular vote; the most recent time readers should recall as being in 2000 when George W. Bush was declared the winner and became the 43rd president, despite losing the popular vote to Al Gore by about 540,000 votes. Bush won the electoral vote, 271 to 256—and you should know the rest of the story. Still, if you really think about it, the history of the world would have most likely been much different, had Gore somehow have been declared the victor. The environmentalist that he remains even today could have spelled disaster for the coal industry, even more so than President Obama. On the other hand, I believe world order and the chaos of the Middle East of today’s times probably would not exist as such. And, most likely, the World Trade Center in New York would still be standing. However, if you can’t win your home state (Tennessee) and Gore did not, then you probably should not win the election. I feel the same way about local elections, if you can’t win your home precinct—where people should know you—then maybe one should not win overall.

Gore followers who were upset over the election process should feel better when they look back at what happened to Andrew Jackson in 1824. “Old Hickory,” famous for winning the Battle of New Orleans—even though the war had already been declared over but the word had not reached Louisiana—won the popular vote over John Quincy Adams by 38,000 ballots and received 99 electoral votes to Adams’ 84. Unfortunately, a majority of 131 votes was needed to be declared president. The decision then went to the House of Representatives, which voted Adams into the White House.

In 1876, Rutherford B. Hayes, another leftover Army guy, won the electoral vote by one ballot, but lost the popular election to Samuel Tilden by 250,000 votes. Not too much longer after that, in 1888, Benjamin Harrison received 233 electoral votes to Grover Cleveland’s 168 to gain the presidency, despite losing by more than 90,000 in the popular vote count.

Some readers may be surprised to know that the Electoral College system, which really has nothing to do with any college, is the result of our Founding Fathers, who were trying to find a working way to elect a president. To make a long and complicated story short, with only 13 colonies that were being turned into states, and 4,000,000 people spread up and down the Atlantic Coast, with hardly any connective transportation and no real communication, our forefathers faced problems because of such factors as some of the framers of our Constitution taking the position that men should not campaign for office. The saying was “The office should seek the man; the man should not seek the office.”

There was much bickering on many issues that formed this great nation. At the Constitutional Convention, there were many possible methods considered in selecting a President. One idea was to have the Congress choose the president. Another suggestion was to have the State legislatures select the president. The third much debated idea was to have the president elected by the popular vote of the people. So, why was this seemingly logical idea rejected, you might ask?

One must remember that with 13 states, some not nearly as populated as others, it was feared that people in the more populated states would vote for what was called “their favorite son” candidate; thus, the larger states would always be in control. Also, it was feared that people in some states would not have sufficient information about other candidates to make an informed decision. After all, it wasn’t exactly “social media” time back in the 1700’s.

Finally, a “Committee of Eleven” was formed at the Convention and the members proposed the election of a president through what was called a “College of Electors.” Each state was allocated a number of Electors equal to the number of its U.S. Senators plus the number of U.S. representatives. This idea supposedly satisfied both small and large states, all of which feared a central national government. Members of Congress and the federal government were specifically prohibited from serving as Electors, pleasing state representatives.

To keep Electors from voting for a “favorite son” of their own State, each Elector was required to cast two votes for president, at least one of which had to be for someone outside of their home state. The idea was that the winner would always be everyone’s second choice. The electoral votes were to be sealed and taken from each of the states to the President of the Senate who would then open them before both houses of Congress and read the results. The idea still works similarly today.

Back then, the person with the most electoral votes—provided that there was an absolute majority— (at least one vote over half of the total votes) became president. Whoever received the next highest total of electoral votes became the vice-president. In the event that no one obtained an “absolute majority” of votes, then the House of Representatives would choose the president, which is what happened between Adams and Jackson, as I mentioned earlier.

In the 1796 election in which John Adams was elected president, Aaron Burr finished fourth in the electoral voting and Thomas Jefferson was second. Therefore, Jefferson became vice president. However, the two men, Adams and Jefferson, were actually opponents of each other, and that caused differences. Congress realized the problem and amended the law so that Electors had to vote for a president and a vice-president. This action caused the formation of a “ticket” of candidates. This vice-presidential thing has since been changed, but in the 1800 election in which Thomas Jefferson won and Aaron Burr was his vice president, a problem was created because Jefferson didn’t trust Burr and therefore, shut him out of most governmental affairs.

In choosing New York State’s electors for the 1800 election, Burr’s slate of electors favored him and the Jefferson team, defeating the Federalist slate backed by Hamilton. When it became clear that Jefferson in the 1804 election wanted to drop Burr as his running mate, Burr sought the office of Governor of New York, but was defeated. This, along with banking issues and other more political matters, helped lead to Burr challenging Hamilton to a pistol duel. Though Hamilton’s eldest son, Philip, had died in a duel in 1801, Hamilton agreed to the duel, even though dueling had been outlawed in New York. So the two enemies agreed to settle their problems on July 11, 1804 in Weehawken, New Jersey, at the same spot Hamilton’s son had died.

History has it from onlookers that both men fired, and Hamilton was mortally wounded above the hip. Observers disagreed as to who fired the first shot. Rather oddly— I might add— they did agree that there was a “four or five second interval” between the first and second shots. Although Burr was charged with murder, he was never tried in either New York or New Jersey. All charges were eventually dropped.

In 1805, Burr journeyed into what was then the Western frontier, which was areas— including what is now West Virginia—that lay west of the Allegheny Mountains. Although there is much more involved in this matter, Aaron Burr, along with Harman Blennerhasset, whose private island is still located on the Ohio River at Parkersburg, was charged with conspiring to commit treason against the U.S. government. President Jefferson issued a warrant for his arrest in 1805, but he was later found not guilty of the charges. Burr’s political life, however, had been ruined.

The reason I choose to delve into this unusual history is that I believe it appropriate (since some forces are trying to get Electorals to change their votes to Hillary, and because some Californians are trying to make that state a nation by its self, due to Trump being declared the victor) that a duel between Hillary and “sure-shot” Donald would be appropriate. Here’s my theory:

A worldwide stage would watch as the two would rip their automatics from their sides and fire simultaneously at the other. The result, I believe, just might make both political sides happy.

That is, if you know what I mean.

(See you next week, when I will have some very interesting local news to share with readers—some of whom may actually care.)

Dwight Williamson Guest Columnist Williamson Guest Columnist

Dwight Williamson

Guest Columnist

Dwight Williamson is a contributing writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner. He currently serves as a Logan County Magistrate.

Dwight Williamson is a contributing writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner. He currently serves as a Logan County Magistrate.

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