The Constitution is silent on how a state is to choose its electors.

The Constitution is silent on how a state is to choose its electors. I have a few questions on the subject.
How uniform is the process of selecting electors across the US today?
Do states change the rules for selection every four years?
Who makes up these electors and how representative of the people are they? According to one website, they may be State-elected officials, party leaders, or persons who have a personal or political affiliation with the Presidential candidate.
How does becoming a presidential elector differ from becoming a primary/caucus delegate?
I look forward to your feedback.

The reason the Constitution doesn’t mention elector selection is because that’s a State thing, and the Federal government doesn’t really have jurisdiction there, beyond telling the States that they can have electors for President in the same proportion as they have senators and congressmen.

I don’t have any proof, but I’m pretty sure that almost all states just appoint electors, who are apparently honor-bound to vote according to the winner in the state, although in most states, they’re not legally required to vote that way. And, in two states, the electors are apportioned proportionally, so that if one candidate wins 75% of the vote, then 75% of the electors (or the closest division) goes to that candidate, and down the line with the other candidates. The rules for electors don’t change often, and if they do, I’m sure it’s with minor tweaks to whatever eligibility requirements there may be.

I think being an elector is more of a perk/honor bestowed by a state government/governor. Being a convention delegate is something different- that’s a party-centered affair, and you’re usually chosen as a local representative by your party infrastructure.

Not exactly. Maine and Nebraska assign electors by congressional district, with the remaining two being assigned to whoever wins the overall state vote.

Not always.


These procedures probably don’t change much from election to election because there is no need to.

In practice, there isn’t that much difference between delegates to the convention and delegates to the college. They are all going to be party loyalists and candidate-specific loyalists. In a primary or caucus they are voted on by the public; for the Electoral College they are selected by the insiders. More quantitative than qualitative differences.

From Gov class ,any years ago. Each party submits a list of electoral candidates to the state’s Secretary of State. So when you vote you are really voting on a group of people who have sworn to vote for their candidate.


I’m not certain that a state couldn’t decide to simply appoint their electors from whichever party dominates the state legislature, not bothering to hold an election. They used to appoint senators that way until, was it the 17th amendment.

That’s the way it was commonly done for a while. Popular elections for the EC came later, as state governments decided to delegate the appointment of electors to popular vote.

IIRC South Carolina had its legislature decide who its electors would be until decades after elections were the norm everywhere else. It was at least the 1840s, maybe not even until reconstruction.

IIRC the Florida legislature did this back in 2000 just in case the popular vote got overturned in another recount.

This is also de facto true of Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming (at least until one of them gets a second representative.)

That would seem a very poor method, if practiced universally. In most elections, the winner gets only a little over half the vote, unusual for it to be 60%. So it would almost guarantee a tie in a small-medium state (3-3, 4-4, or whatever). Then the electoral college would be decided by either a few very populous states or those with an odd number of electors, effectively disenfranchising voters in states with 4, 6, 8 and maybe 10 or 12 electors, which would return an equal and self-cancelling number for each of two main candidates.

I had it somewhat wrong- Maine and Nebraska let the results in each district determine the vote of that district’s electors, instead of apportioning the electors proportionally at the state level.

You could get the same splits you talk about, but it would require a different set of circumstances than what you describe.

It sounds more equitable to do it that way, but the current system is one that’s engineered to produce a clear winner in most elections, even though the popular vote runs close to 50/50 in most Presidential elections. I’d think that the alternative to the current system would be many more repeats of the Bush/Gore 2000 craziness every time that the electoral vote was close. If not hanging chads, it would be some other accusations of impropriety every single time that the vote got close.

Not really. Things aren’t quite that close at the state level, especially if you round up for the winner, as is usually how I see this proposed. What it would do is nerf the so-called “battleground states.”

And I hate this idea that you are disenfranchised because someone else voted the opposite way to you. Your vote still counted.

For the record: in the 2012 election, 18 states (and DC) had a vote that went for one of the two major candidates by more than 59%. (I set the bar at 59% because the average of Obama’s and Romney’s popular votes was 49% due to third-party candidates.) So it’s not exactly rare.

I suspect what might happen is that candidates would spend more time in the states whose ratio of Electoral College votes to population is relatively high; in such states, they would have to convince fewer people in order to “move the needle”. These states tend to be less populous as well (since every state has at least one representative and two senators, regardless of population), and don’t have large media markets; which means that air time would be relatively cheap, giving the candidates even more bang for their buck. In this scenario, the net result would be a greater focus on rural interests and less attention paid to the desires of the larger population centers. Whether or not this would be a good thing is an exercise left for the reader.

Just the opposite. Today, the outcome in certain (especially smaller) states is a foregone conclusion and so the candidates will effectively “write off” that state. They concentrate on the bigger states. A small state with a 3-3 tie still means 5-3 electoral votes, taking into account the 2 state wide electors representing the senatorial electors. It then becomes relevant to try to squeak by with 51% in several smaller states rather than fight for a few bigger ones.

If you mean, ALL electoral votes are proportional - no 2 senate state-wide electors - then we’re back to the status quo, with a minor exception. If there is a swing area, then boosting your vote in that area will boost statewide vote and may make the difference of winning 1 or 2 more electors from that state. Proportionate math and rounding become trickier, and there is still an incentive to spend some time in some states currently ignored instead of, as now, writing them off.

But yes, areas that traditionally vote one way will always tend to be ignored by the candidate who doesn’t see a point going there. Candidates will always spend more time in the states with the most undecided voters and a chance of making a difference.

The current system was not engineered to anything of the sort. The current system is a legacy of how things were originally set up – which was to make sure the rabble elected smart people to choose rather than choose themselves. That’s not the way it operates now, of course.

And if every other country can manage to hold popular elections without such craziness all the time, I’d think we in the U.S. could manage to do so as well.

And while we’re at it, can we adopt something sensible for the primaries?

It is not the smaller states that get “written off”. The only time canidates come to California is when they want money. It is assumed that the Democratic candidate will get all the states large electoral votes so why bother to campaign there unless someone is giving you a lot of money.