If you’ve been wondering just who in the hell is in the Electoral College, here is a list of names. SPOILER ALERT: You’ll still be confused after reading it.
Since the year 2000, we’ve all had to grow more accustomed with what the Electoral College is and what it actually does. While there has always been information out there about it, it’s been difficult to understand. Many of us thought voting was simple, whoever got the most people to vote for them, won. Just like in student council at school, right? As we learned 16 years ago when Democratic nominee Al Gore won the popular vote, but failed to get as many Electoral College votes as George W. Bush, Jr., the popular isn’t what actually counts.
The Electoral College has been in place since 1787 and history gives two reasons why. The history book version of what went down is that the Electoral College was created create a balance between big [high-population] and small [low-population] states when it came time to vote. But what actually caused the idea of an Electoral College was slavery. When Presidential elections went national, Northern states had an advantage because they had more voters by default since Southern states populations were largely made up of slaves who could not vote. So the Electoral College system was put in place where each state was allotted a number of “electors” that matched the number of representatives they had in Congress, based on population. So, Southern states were allowed to count slaves as a part of their population, even though they didn’t allow them to vote. So, what happens is slave-owning states like Virginia could just as many “electors” as a state like Pennsylvania because of the head count, not necessarily the vote count. TIME does a good job of breaking this down here.
What wound up happening a couple times was a “big” state with 20 electoral votes could be matched or outnumbered by a number of “small” states with seven, eight or nine elector votes among them, even though the “big” state still had more people voting. The system was usually looked at as trusted since the President usually won both the popular vote and the Electoral College. But a President who lost the popular vote has won the Electoral College vote just five times in this country’s history. This generation just happens to be lucky enough to see it happen twice in the last 20 years. Bush in 2000 and now Donald Trump in 2016.
So in layman’s terms, when people go vote, they are merely suggesting who they want to be President and that state’s electors are expected to take that suggestion to heart and cast the vote on their behalf.
Think of it like, you bring home a bag of groceries with ingredients for a chocolate cake, wanting your spouse/partner to take those ingredients and make the cake for you. Since you’ve made it obvious that you want chocolate cake, you expect them to make it. But at the end of the day, they don’t have to if they don’t want to, even though they’ve done it hundreds of times before. They can take those ingredients and make pudding if they want to. That would be foul, but they can still do that. “Free country.”
That said, fast forward to right now, many Americans are hoping that the Electoral College takes their votes and makes pudding. Because the cake that is Donald Trump, doesn’t look too enticing.
In 21 states, electors are not obligated to vote what the popular vote has suggested it wants. In 29 states and Washington, some who goes against the vote can be fined and charged with a misdemeanor, but that rarely happens. An elector who chooses to go against the grain is called a “faithless elector.” In this election, we know of at lease one faithless elector, Georgian Republican Baoky Nguyen Vu. Vu said that he would not be voting for Trump. For his troubles, he was essentially forced to resign before he could take a stand and vote for Hillary Clinton instead. Faithless electors could be punished with small fines if they chose to go against the party.
Here’s where it gets interesting. For the most part, these electors are not publically known. They are known by people who are in the know, i.e. Republican and Democratic party insiders like them. There are cases where parties grant certain citizens who have shown years of allegiance or special efforts to support them. As of October, Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s mother was an elector on the Democratic side.
Politico has managed to secure the names and identities of most of these electors. There have been petitions going around supporting the idea of getting these electors to change their minds when they go in to vote for President on Dec. 19.
It’s a long shot, but if you want to nudge some of the Republican electors to switch sides or refrain from voting for Trump, here are their names. It’s on you to find them, good luck with that.
Photo: U-T San Diego/ZUMAPRESS.com