Electoral College brings

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 12, 2000

strange election twist


Staff Writer

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Nov. 11, 2000 10 PM

Talk everywhere has been more of a question ­ Who will be the next president?

As many have tried to catch some news of what’s happening in the Florida recount, talk turns to the electoral college.

"All indications are Bush has won in a strange election," said James Joyner, assistant professor of political science at Troy State University.

He continued by saying, "(Ralph) Nader cost (Al) Gore the election."

In reference to Florida voters, Joyner said, "a lot of those, if forced, would have voted for Gore."

And, if Alabamians repeat history, this year’s presidential election could get even stranger.

In 1960, John F. Kennedy’s lead in the popular vote was 170,000 over Richard Nixon.

Kennedy carried Alabama with 324,050 votes to Nixon’s 237,981.

That same majority didn’t carry over into the electoral college.

Forty years ago, six of Alabama electors voted for Virginia Sen. Harry Byrd, who was a segregationist leader at the time. But, those defectors were not enough to influence the election’s outcome.

On occasion, Alabama has had a defector, but so have other states.

In 1968, independent presidential candidate and Alabama native George Wallace received an electoral vote from North Carolina despite the fact Nixon carried that state. Then, in 1976, a Washington state elector cast his vote for Ronald Reagan although Gerald Ford received more popular votes.

Joyner said he believes the electoral college takes away the power of the people’s vote.

"I think we should do away with it," Joyner said. "If you do, states become less important, such as Alabama, which overwhelmingly voted for (George W.) Bush."

As it stands now, Alabama has nine electoral votes ­ two United States senators and seven U.S. representatives, who are likely to cast ballots for Bush. Alabama’s two senators are Republican and all but two of the newly-elected representatives are Republicans, as well.

It wasn’t even unity 1976 that the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees were even listed on the Alabama ballot. Before then, Alabama voters chose electors who ran under party banners. Still, there was nothing legally binding them to vote for their party’s nominee.

That still holds true. Electors are not forced to vote for the candidate who carried the state but, generally, are pledged to vote for a particular candidate.

So, on Dec. 18, when the Republicans ­ since Bush carried Alabama ­ go to Montgomery to cast electoral votes, chances are those votes will be for the GOP presidential nominee.

Democrats, third-party and independent candidates do not go.

Although it is possible for a candidate to win the popular vote and not win a majority of electoral votes, it’s unlikely. However, it did happen in 1876 and 1888. Throughout the nation’s history, the House has chosen the president only three times ­ 1800, 1824 and 1876.

In 1876, the electoral votes of four states were disputed so the election went to the House, which chose Rutherford B. Hayes, who came in second in terms of the popular votes. In 1824, Andrew Jackson received the popular vote, but the second most electoral votes and the House chose John Quincy Adams.

The United States Constitution originally specified the person with the most electoral votes and at least a majority of the votes would become president. The person with the next highest number of electoral votes would, then, become president.

All that changed with the 1800 election, when nobody got a majority and the election was thrown to the House of Representatives, which after 36 ballots, chose Thomas Jefferson.

That led to the adoption of the 12th Amendment, which revised the system and, now, electors vote for president and vice president on separate ballots, so even if they get the same number, it will be clear as to who will be president and who will be vice president.