15 December 2008

Happy Election Day!

Today, December 15, 2008, is the day that the United States conducts its Presidential election.

Members of the electoral college, who were selected by voters on November 4, 2008, cast their votes in each of the nation's state capital today (with paper ballots counted by hand).

The Rocky Mountain News reports on an immaterial hitch in that process today in Colorado.

Elector Margaret Atencio could not make it in because of the weather, so state officials must go through the process of electing someone to replace her.

From a practical perspective, today is notable for several reasons:

1. Today's vote renders further state level challenges to the Presidential election untimely; and

2. If the President-Elect or Vice President-Elect chosen by voters were incapacitated or died prior to today, the electoral college could have filled the vacancy today; and

3. Today's eliminates the slight possibility that an elector might be unfaithful to his or her pledge to vote for the candidate selected in the general election by ordinary voters.

There is an elector or two who devitates from their pledge every election or two, but this has never been outcome determinative. In some states, an unfaithful vote is a crime, but to my knowledge, no one has ever been punished for a violation of the duty to vote as pledged. In practice, loyalty to a candidate is a foremost consideration in determining who will be honored with the privilege of serving as an elector, so the degree to which the obligation is binding is rarely material.

The results of the votes in each of the state capitals today will be transmitted to Congress with the result officially announced on January 20, 2009. The new Congress itself is installed earlier in January.

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