Presidential Electors and the Electoral College

Cambria Press publication author review #APSA2015
#APSA2015 Presidential Electors and the Electoral College

Cambria Press Publication

Presidential Electors and
the Electoral College
(Chapter Excerpts)

Chapter 1: A Risk to the Republic?

“The 2000 election marked the fourth time in American history that a candidate was elected president without having won the popular vote. This electoral oddity drew a wealth of national attention to the Electoral College, a system as controversial as it is unique (see, for example, Edwards 2004). The Florida debacle of 2000 generated renewed debate regarding the Electoral College process. Fairly or unfairly, Florida represented larger concerns with the way Americans select their chief executive.”

Chapter 2: Studying Presidential Electors

“From the survey of the 2000 electors, I learned that Republican electors were lobbied to change their votes. I also found several Republican electors who were uneasy about the electoral outcome in which George W. Bush ascended to the presidency. These findings stimulated greater investigation into these phenomena for the 2004 and 2008 surveys. To determine whether such lobbying efforts have any chance of success, one must first understand the motivations of electors. I argue that their fidelity is tied to electors’ connections with the candidates, parties, and electoral system they pledge to support. Addressing the issue of how closely electors are tied to these entities allows insight into the likelihood of elector defection. The purpose of the research conducted is not so much to determine whether such efforts would be successful but rather to examine whether and why electors might be susceptible to these campaigns. Elector lobbying can be viewed as both a threat to the legitimacy of the presidential selection process and as a plausible political tactic.”

Chapter 3: The Class of 2000

“The findings suggest that if the 2000 Electoral College is a prologue to future assemblages, political parties must choose their electors wisely. Of particular importance is that electors demonstrate substantial investments in party activity or significant monetary contributions. Furthermore, the data indicate that the different methods of elector selection may produce electors who invest in politics differently”

Chapter 4: The Class of 2004

“Data from the 2004 electors reveals a sizeable gap between what scholars thought they knew concerning the potential for faithless electors and what they now know about the real possibility of faithless electors. The significant amount of elector lobbying and the relatively large number of electors who considered defecting reveals that beneath the surface of the Electoral College, another campaign to secure votes persists. The legitimacy of the U.S. democratic system hinges in large part upon these individuals’ choices to remain faithful. Fortunately, the potential for chaos the survey reveals has not yet been realized. This could be, as president Benjamin Harrison once suggested, because a faithless elector would become “the object of execration and in times of high excitement might be the subject of a lynching” (Longley and Peirce 1999, 111). Perhaps the threat of public ridicule and concern for safety are the only obstacles preventing the significant pool of wavering electors from jumping ship.”

Chapter 5: The Class of 2008

“Data from the 2008 Electoral College show that for the second consecutive election cycle, roughly one in ten electors considered joining the ranks of faithless electors. These surveys reveal a threat to the American electoral process that has long remained undetected. That so many electors have considered defecting is alarming. More important, these considerations expose an unnecessary risk to the presidential selection process. No elector defected in 2008, yet the possibility for defections was very real. Had wavering electors acted upon their impulses, the effects of their behavior would have been far reaching. From disenfranchising millions of voters to destroying the public’s faith in the political process, the potential effects of a faithless electoral vote pose a significant risk to the republic.”

Chapter 6: Commencement

“Whether the issue is one elector’s disenfranchising thousands of voters or multiple electors’ putting the entire nation at risk, now is the appropriate time to solve the problem. The largest obstacle to such remediation appears to be the lack of urgency with which most regard the risks. However, the possibility that a few rogue electors could cripple the body politic is very real.”

Watch the Cambria Press publication interview with Dr. Alexander.

About the author: 

Robert Alexander is an associate professor of political science at Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio. He received his PhD and MA from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. He is the author of Rolling the Dice with State Initiatives: Interest Group Involvement in Ballot Campaignsand The Classics of Interest Group Behavior. Dr. Alexander’s work has appeared in journals such as the Journal of Politics, PS: Political Science and Politics, and the American Review of Politics. Dr. Alexander serves on the National Executive Committee for Pi Sigma Alpha and on the National Liaison Advisory Board for The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars.

This book is part of the Politics, Institutions, and Public Policy in America (PIPPA) book series  (Editors: Scott Frisch and Sean Kelly). See more well-reviewed books in the Cambria Press PIPPA Series.

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