Friday, November 21, 2003
I'm speaking at a the Democracy USA conference this weekend and have learned an astonishing fact from some fellow speakers. None of us technically have the right to vote for president.
We're all familiar with the electoral college and know that it technically elects the president, rather than the voters directly. When we vote on election day, we're technically voting for members of the electoral college who will then cast votes for our favored candidate for president. But, it turns out that our votes for the electoral college are only advisory. The legislature could disregard them and appoint whoever they wanted to the electoral college.
This all came to light during a little noticed aspect of the Bush v Gore ruling that came out of the Florida election fiasco of 2000. While the rest of the country was focused on hanging chads, election law experts noted that the Supreme Court had in fact ruled that "the individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States unless and until the state legislature chooses a statewide election as the means to implement its power to appoint electors." Worse yet, the legislature can take back the power at any time. In fact, in 2000, the Florida legislature was threatening to do just that if the courts didn't come to some conclusion by December 12.
Nearly everyone has an opinion about what happened in Florida. But regardless of how you feel about that, we should all be able to agree that the people's vote for president ought to be binding. We should amend our constitution to insure that this will always be the case in the future.