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Nov 13

[ARCHIVED] The Electoral College and Kansas

The original item was published from November 13, 2020 3:17 PM to November 13, 2020 4:13 PM


The Electoral College and Kansas

The United States holds national elections for President every four years. A significant, unique, and widely misunderstood feature of US presidential elections is the “Electoral College.” Ironically, although the concept and broad directives of the Electoral College have always been entrenched in the US Constitution  the term “Electoral College” itself does not appear in the Constitution, and only evolved afterwards as a description 

In accordance with the “federal republic” structure of the United States government, it is technically not the American population that elects the President, but the individual states. The US Constitution allows each state a number of Electors equal to its combined number of Senators and Representatives in Congress (Article II, Section 1). Additionally, the 25th Amendment allows the District of Columbia a number of Electors not exceeding that of the smallest state, which is three. When the District of Columbia’s three Electors are added to those of the 50 states, the total comes to 538 Electors. A majority of these Electors – 270 Electoral votes – is needed to win the Presidency. One might ask why we have a popular election for President at all. The reason is that since the 19th century US states have largely chosen their respective Electors through a popular vote.  

The 2016 presidential election was unusual in that it saw a large number of rare “faithless electors” who cast their ballot for President in contradiction to the candidate chosen by their state’s popular vote. Five Democratic electors in Washington and Hawaii cast their votes for people other than Hillary Clinton, and two Republican electors in Texas cast their votes for people other than Donald Trump. The total of seven “faithless electors” was the most since 1972.  

However, 32 states and the District of Columbia have passed statutory laws enforcing how their Electors can vote. In general, such states’ Electors are required by their respective states’ law to cast their vote for the presidential candidate that won that state’s popular vote. The methods and degrees of legal enforcement of such legislation vary greatly. Some merely require their Electors to sign a pledge that they will cast their vote for their state’s popular vote winner. Oklahoma and North Carolina impose civil penalties (fines) of $1,000 and $500 respectively. South Carolina retains the right to impose criminal penalties on faithless electors, while in New Mexico casting one’s ballot for someone other than the state’s popular vote winner is a fourth degree felony. Kansas, interestingly, is one of 18 states whose Electors are not legally limited in whom they cast their votes for. 

Each state legislates its own method of choosing Electors and certifying election results. Kansas statutes  concerning the presidential election process are found at KSA 25-301, 25-304, 25-305, 25-802, and 25-804.  

Kansas Electors for President are required by law to convene at the state capital at noon on the first Monday after the second Wednesday of the December after the Election and “shall proceed to perform the duties required of such electors by the constitution and laws of the United States.”