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Wed Jan 30, 2013, 10:31 AM

Idle thought: what if a state refused to hold a presidential election?

This came up in conversation over the dinner table last night. This is all the Constitution says about electing the president:

The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows:

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by Ballot for two Persons, of whom one at least shall not be an Inhabitant of the same State with themselves. And they shall make a List of all the Persons voted for, and of the Number of Votes for each; which List they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the Seat of the Government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the Presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the Certificates, and the Votes shall then be counted. The Person having the greatest Number of Votes shall be the President, if such Number be a Majority of the whole Number of Electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such Majority, and have an equal Number of Votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately chuse by Ballot one of them for President; and if no Person have a Majority, then from the five highest on the List the said House shall in like Manner chuse the President. But in chusing the President, the Votes shall be taken by States, the Representation from each State having one Vote; A quorum for this purpose shall consist of a Member or Members from two thirds of the States, and a Majority of all the States shall be necessary to a Choice. In every Case, after the Choice of the President, the Person having the greatest Number of Votes of the Electors shall be the Vice President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal Votes, the Senate shall chuse from them by Ballot the Vice President.

The Congress may determine the Time of chusing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.


Nothing about a popular vote. Given that, is there any reason a state -- let's say a relatively homogeneous one, like Utah -- couldn't just decide that the Governor would appoint electors of his choosing? Or that the state legislature would pick the electors? Could the states, in effect, end popular voting for the president if they so chose?

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Arrow 15 replies Author Time Post
Reply Idle thought: what if a state refused to hold a presidential election? (Original post)
Proud Public Servant Jan 2013 OP
SoCalDem Jan 2013 #1
Proud Public Servant Jan 2013 #2
PoliticAverse Jan 2013 #3
Proud Public Servant Jan 2013 #4
hughee99 Jan 2013 #5
KamaAina Jan 2013 #8
hughee99 Jan 2013 #10
onenote Jan 2013 #11
KamaAina Jan 2013 #12
Auntie Bush Jan 2013 #6
kudzu22 Jan 2013 #7
Recursion Jan 2013 #9
LeftInTX Jan 2013 #13
WinkyDink Jan 2013 #14
csziggy Jan 2013 #15

Response to Proud Public Servant (Original post)

Wed Jan 30, 2013, 10:41 AM

1. If they chose to send NO electors, their total

would probably just be removed from the total and the +1 majority figured from that new total

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Response to SoCalDem (Reply #1)

Wed Jan 30, 2013, 10:46 AM

2. No, my point is

That they can send electors without holding an election. As far as I can tell, if a state chose to do so, they could just let the governor appoint two electors, denying the people any say in the process (except for the oblique "say" in choosing the governor).

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Response to Proud Public Servant (Original post)

Wed Jan 30, 2013, 10:57 AM

3. At one time many state legislatures selected the electors. It could happen again.

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Response to PoliticAverse (Reply #3)

Wed Jan 30, 2013, 11:13 AM

4. Great link, thanks!

I'll share it with my daughter, who raised the question.

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Response to Proud Public Servant (Original post)

Wed Jan 30, 2013, 11:22 AM

5. Of course, the only state you could even hypothetically get away with this in,

would be a state where you already knew who was going to win the state.

In any case, since the state has to have elections anyway (for other offices), how would one even consider trying to justify NOT putting the presidential candidates on the ballot?

Perhaps a technical possibility, but a practical impossibility.

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Response to hughee99 (Reply #5)

Wed Jan 30, 2013, 12:22 PM

8. No, it would be a state where you already knew who controlled the legislature and state house.

Like Michigan. And Wisconsin. And Ohio. And Florida. And so on.

Think of this as sort of a "nuclear option" in case their plans to rig the election by splitting up electoral votes among their gerrymandered House districts doesn't work.

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Response to KamaAina (Reply #8)

Wed Jan 30, 2013, 12:34 PM

10. Is there any state that you know for sure will be red

that the repukes don't control the legislature?

This will NEVER happen. I'm not saying some wacko blogger wouldn't suggest it, or that they won't find some lunatic first term state rep to propose it, but it will never, ever pass.

The idea that the repukes will even attempt to do this is the stuff that tinfoil hats were made for. I would put it up with the "Will Obama declare Martial law at the end of his next term so he can stay in office" stuff.

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Response to KamaAina (Reply #8)

Wed Jan 30, 2013, 12:38 PM

11. It would require the legislature --elected by the people -- to change the law

to take away the people's right to vote. If you think that has a chance of happening, I have a bridge I can get for you cheap.

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Response to onenote (Reply #11)

Wed Jan 30, 2013, 01:10 PM

12. Look at Michigan and its emergency manager law

The people in affected cities still get to vote, but they took away all power from those local elected officials.

I'm not saying it's likely, either -- but I wouldn't put ANYTHING past them at this point.

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Response to Proud Public Servant (Original post)

Wed Jan 30, 2013, 12:03 PM

6. No vote....no representation.

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Response to Proud Public Servant (Original post)

Wed Jan 30, 2013, 12:17 PM

7. I believe you're correct

There is nothing that says the voters of a state have to hold an election to appoint presidential electors. In the early days the state legislature would appoint the electors. A state could determine any method they like to choose their electors. But most people want to vote so that's what the states do today.

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Response to Proud Public Servant (Original post)

Wed Jan 30, 2013, 12:24 PM

9. The framers didn't trust us very much.

Yes, there is no Constitutional guarantee to being able to vote for a President; this actually came up in Bush v. Gore (and, that part of the argument I think the conservatives were frankly right on: the Florida state legislature is Constitutionally empowered to simply appoint a slate of electors if they wish). The guarantee is only political, but it is a pretty unshakeable one at this point.

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Response to Proud Public Servant (Original post)

Wed Jan 30, 2013, 01:22 PM

13. I've had the same question too.

Thanks for asking it.

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Response to Proud Public Servant (Original post)

Wed Jan 30, 2013, 01:24 PM

14. I'm sure the populace would simply sit home and accept this. NOT.

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Response to Proud Public Servant (Original post)

Wed Jan 30, 2013, 01:34 PM

15. Florida 2000 there were threats that the legislature would

Appoint the electors for the electoral college. Given that the Florida legislature was predominantly Republican, guess who would have gotten all the electoral votes from Florida?

No link - I remember the talk at the time. This threat was used as one justification by the Supreme Court for their decision.

I'd hunt up the info but I'm taking my husband out to movie and maybe dinner for his 61st birthday!

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