Who Are The Electors In My State? The Electoral College Is More Up In The Air Than Usual This Year
It's a basic but often surprising civic lesson in school that the United states does not have a direct democracy system for electing the president: when you cast your vote for president, you aren't actually voting directly for the president. When you vote on Election Day, you're actually voting for electors, the people who will ultimately go and cast votes in the Electoral College on your behalf. Who are the electors in your state? It seems like a pretty reasonable question to want to know the people who will ultimately decide the nation's fate.
Electors are selected at state party conventions and are only used if that particular party wins a state. For example, if your state is voted Republican, the slate of electors selected at the Republican party convention in the state cast their ballots in a state meeting — this year on Dec. 19 —and those votes are officially certified on Jan. 6, 2017. If Democrats win, then the electors selected during the Democratic party convention cast ballots. It's that last part, or which party will be sending its delegates to vote in the Electoral College, that you are actually deciding on Election Day. (The exceptions are Maine and Nebraska, which have proportional distribution.)
But here's the slightly nerve-racking thing about electors: there isn't a federal law or constitutional provision that locks the electors into voting for the candidate who won the popular vote in their state. So technically, they can do whatever they want to. Well, sort of. Some states do bind electors to vote in whatever way the popular vote swings. Electors who don't vote for the candidate to which they are pledged are known as faithless electors, but according to FairVote.org, there have only been 157 faithless electors in the Electoral College's history.
Clearly, electors play a significant role in our presidential election process, so it is important to understand who these people are. Each state's parties have to submit the names of their electors, and a certificate of ascertainment will list all of the approved electors. That isn't necessarily available to the public just yet, but Politico published a handy guide to all of the electors this year.
It's good information to know, but if you're thinking that you're going to grab a sit down with one of them to sway their opinion on who should take the presidency, you might want to have a back-up plan. Electors around the country have reported that they've been hit with a wave of calls and letters trying to convince them to vote this way or that. Needless to say, they've probably heard it all.