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the people of the States at a popular election. With this point clearly in mind, we shall go forward to describe the whole series of steps that are taken in electing the President and the Vice-President of the United States.
396. Presidential Nominations.—Government in the United States, as in other free countries, is carried on by means of political parties. These party organizations desire to elect the President and control the Government. They hold National conventions, generally in the period June-August of the year before a President is to take his seat, to nominate candidates for President and VicePresident, and to adopt a statement of party doctrines or principles called a platform. These conventions are constituted under fixed rules, and are convoked by National committees. The Republican and Democratic conventions consist each of four delegates-at-large from every State, and twice as many district delegates as the State has members in the House of Representatives. As a rule the delegates-at-large are appointed by State party conventions, and the district delegates by district conventions. In the Republican convention a majority vote suffices to nominate candidates; in the Democratic convention the rule is two-thirds.
397. Electoral Tickets.-The next step is to make up the State Electoral tickets. First, State conventions name two Electors for the State called Electors-at-large, or Senatorial Electors. The conventions that name the delegates-at-large to the National conventions may, and often do, name also the candidates for Electors-at-large. Next district Electors are put in nomination, one from a Congressional district, generally by district conventions. The names of the candidates put in nomination by a given party brought together constitute the State
The two steps that have been described belong wholly to the field of voluntary political action. The Constitution and the laws have nothing whatever to do with them.
Choice of Electors.-Congress fixes the day upon which the Electors are chosen. It is the same in all States, Tuesday following the first Monday of November, the day on which members of the House of Representatives are generally elected. Persons who may vote for State officers and for Representatives may also vote for Electors. State officers conduct the election, and the Governor gives the successful candidates their certificates of election. The appointment of the Electors is popularly called the Presidential election. It is so in fact but not in law. In point of law the people do not elect the President and the Vice President, but only Electors who elect them. In point of fact, as we shall soon see, they do both. All that the National authority has done up to this point is to fix the time of the appointment of Electors. Hereafter that authority directs every step in the process.
399. Meeting of the Electors.-On the second Monday of January, following their appointment, the Electors meet at their respective State capitals to vote for President and Vice-President. They name in their ballots the person for whom they vote as President, and in distinct ballots the person for whom they vote as VicePresident. No Elector can vote for persons for both offices from the same State that he himself resides in: one at least of the two candidates must belong to another State. The voting over, the Electors make distinct lists
of all persons voted for as President, and of all persons voted for as Vice-President, and of the number of votes for each, which lists they sign, certify, and seal. Three copies of these lists are made. Two of them they send to Washington addressed to the President of the Senate, one by mail and one by a special messenger. The other copy they deliver to the Judge of the United States District Court for the district in which they meet and vote. Congress by law names the day on which the Electors give their votes, and it must be uniform throughout the Union. The casting of their ballots by the Electors is the formal but not the real Presidential election.
400. Counting the Electoral Votes.—On the second Wednesday of February, the day named by Congress, the Senate and the House of Representatives meet in the hall of the House to witness the counting of the Electoral votes. The President of the Senate presides, the Speaker of the House sitting by his side. He opens the certificates of votes and hands them to tellers appointed by the Houses, who read and count the votes. The President of the Senate declares the result. The person having the greatest number of votes cast for President, if a majority of all, is declared President; the person having the greatest number of votes for Vice-President, if a majority of all, is declared Vice-President.
401. Election of the President by the House. If no person has received for President the votes of a majority of all the Electors appointed, the House of Representatives must immediately choose the President from the three candidates who have had the most votes for that office. This election is by ballot. The votes are taken by States, the Representatives from a State having one vote. Nevada balances New York, Delaware Pennsylvania. A quorum to conduct the election consists of a member
or members from two-thirds of the States, and a majority of all the States is necessary to a choice. Twice has the House of Representatives chosen the President, Thomas Jefferson in 1801 and John Quincy Adams in 1825. Both of these elections were attended by great excitement.
If the House fails to choose a President, when the choice devolves upon that body, by March 4 following, then the Vice-President acts as in the case of death, removal, or resignation of the President.
402. Election of the Vice-President by the Senate. If no person voted for as Vice-President has a majority of all the Electors appointed, then the Senate shall choose to that office one of the two candidates standing highest on the list of candidates for the VicePresidency. A quorum for this purpose consists of twothirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of all the Senators is necessary to a choice.
403. Miscellaneous Provisions.-The Electors appointed from a State are often called a college; the Electors from all the States the Electoral colleges. Most of the States have empowered their colleges to fill vacancies that may occur in their number. In 1887 Congress passed an act to provide for and regulate the counting of votes for President and Vice-President, and the decision of questions arising thereon. This law gives the States jurisdiction over disputed appointments of Electors. It also prescribes the method of proceeding when plural returns are made from any State and in cases where objections are made to a single return.1
1 The method of electing President and Vice-President outlined above, is that prescribed by the Constitution as originally framed, together with the Twelfth Amendment. For the change introduced by this Amendment, see the Amendment in connection with Article II, section 1, clause 3, of the Constitution at first framed.
404. The Electoral System.-When the framers of the Constitution devised the method of election by means of Electoral colleges, they assumed that the Electors would be picked bodies of men, who would vote for the best men for President and Vice-President, regardless of popular feeling and private interest. It may be said that in the case of Washington the plan worked as they expected, but since his second administration it has never done so. No other part of the Constitution has proved so disappointing as the method of electing the President. In 1804 the Constitution was amended to correct evils that had declared themselves in the election of 1800; but the Twelfth Amendment, while accomplishing its immediate purpose, did not prevent the whole plan becoming a miserable failure. The men of 1787 did not foresee the part that politics and political parties would play in American affairs. As we have seen, the President and Vice-President are really named by one of the two great political conventions. The Electors are not chosen to exercise their own best judgment, but to cast their ballots for the party candidates. When once elected, the Electors are not legally bound to vote for these candidates, for the Constitution and laws make no mention of parties and conventions; but they are bound as party men and as men of honor, for they have consented to be elected on this understanding. As the system works, they have no free will whatever, and practically the Electoral colleges are pieces of useless political machinery.