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his own district. (3) It was at length discovered that a state's influence in national politics was greatly increased if all of its electors could be carried by one party or the other, and consequently the system of election by district has been abandoned, in favor of election by general ticket throughout the state at large."
It is necessary, accordingly, for each party in each state to prepare a list of candidates equal to the total number of electors to which that particular commonwealth is entitled. In practice, the presidential electors are generally chosen by the state convention of the party, and very often the office of elector is regarded as a titular honor to be given to distinguished citizens or to partisans willing to make liberal contributions to campaign funds.
On election day, therefore, the voter does not vote directly for President and Vice-President, although for his information the names of the candidates of all parties appear on the ballot. On the contrary, if he votes a straight ticket, he simply votes for the entire list of electors put forward by his party. There is no point at all in splitting the vote for presidential electors, unless there is a fusion, such as existed for example in some of the western states between the Democrats and Populists whereby each of the two groups was to have a certain share of the electors according to a predetermined arrangement. What happens, therefore, on a general presidential election day is the choice in each state of a certain number of presidential electors-483 in all. Normally the party which secures a plurality of votes in any state is entitled to all of the electoral votes of that state for President and Vice-President, no matter how large the minority.* No elector would dare to break faith with the party which placed him in nomination, and vote for the candidates of the opposite party. Consequently, the deliberative, judicial, non-partisan
1 "In 1824, twenty-four states took part in the election. In six, the electors were chosen by the legislatures and in eighteen by popular vote, and of these in thirteen by general ticket and by districts in five. . . . South Carolina continued the practice of legislative appointment until 1860." Finley and Sanderson, The American Executive, p. 332.
2 In 1892 Michigan temporarily reverted to the district system. See Readings, p. 157.
"On the suffrage, see below, chap. xxii.
4 There have been a few instances of split electoral tickets California and Kentucky in 1896 and Maryland in 1908, for example.
system designed by the framers of the Constitution has been overthrown by party practice.
It is sometimes held that through this party practice we have secured popular election of President and Vice-President, but if we mean by popular election, choice by majority or plurality vote throughout the United States, it has not been attained as yet. Indeed, several of our Presidents have been elected by a minority of the popular vote. Mr. Lincoln, for example, was chosen President in 1860 by a vote of 1,866,452 against a total of 2,815,617 polled by all of his opponents the large opposition vote being so divided and scattered as to elect less than a majority of the total number of electors. And two Presidents, Hayes and Harrison, did not even receive a plurality.
This possible contingency of election by a minority of the popular vote cast is due to the fact that when a party carries a state, no matter by how slight a margin, it secures all of the presidential electors to which that commonwealth is entitled. A party, therefore, that wins, although by narrow margins, in a sufficient number of states to obtain a majority of the electors may in fact poll a smaller number of votes than the opposing party which may have carried its states by enormous majorities.
The practice of giving the entire electoral vote of a state to the party that has won at the polls, even by the slightest majority, has another significant effect. It concentrates the campaign principally in the states that are counted as "close" and are liable to swing to either party in the election. The importance of carrying these pivotal states leads campaign managers to employ in each of them every art of winning votes known to practical politics. For example, the narrow margin of 1,149 votes in New York, in 1884, gave that state to Mr. Cleveland instead of Mr. Blaine, and changed the result of the presidential election. The Republican national chairman in the campaign of 1888, remembering the lesson of the preceding election, threw a force of detectives in New York City to check false registration and illegal voting, with results which more than exceeded his expectations. This concentration of the campaign in the pivotal states has many bad features, especially the lavish use of money for questionable purposes. It is a notorious fact that in the states in which the rivalry between the parties is keenest, there is the largest amount of bribery. On the other hand, the system
works for "cleaner " politics in states where one party is certain to win, since no advantage can come from piling up votes.
The methods by which the electors so chosen in each state shall meet and cast their votes are prescribed in the Constitution and in federal and state statutes. It is provided by federal law that the electors of each commonwealth shall convene on the second Monday of January, immediately following their appointment at such place as the legislature of the state may direct-in practice, the state capital. When they have assembled, the electors vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, "one of whom at least must not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves" that is, for the two candidates, nominated by their party; and they thereupon make distinct lists of the number of votes so cast, and sign, certify, seal, and transmit the lists to the president of the Senate of the United States. With the lists of their votes for President and Vice-President, the electors must transmit their certificates of election as evidence of their power to act — evidence of crucial importance in case of contested elections. When they have cast their votes and transmitted their documents according to law, the electors have performed their whole duty. They are not paid by the federal government, but are regarded as state officers, and must look to the state legislature for remuneration for their services.1
The counting of the total electoral vote polled throughout the United States begins in the Hall of the House of Representatives on the second Wednesday in February, following the meeting of the electors in their respective states. It is conducted in the presence of the Senate and the House of Representatives with
1 Readings, p. 160.
2 The constitutional clauses relative to counting the electoral vote do not provide for cases of disputed returns from the several states, and in 1876 a grave crisis arose on account of frauds and irregularities in several of the commonwealths. The Senate was Republican and supported the Republican candidate, Mr. Hayes; and the House was Democratic and favored the Democratic candidate, Mr. Tilden. A deadlock occurred and Congress found a way out by creating an electoral commission of five Senators, five Representatives, and five Supreme Court Justices. On all important matters the eight Republicans on the commission voted together, and declared Mr. Hayes elected. See P. L. Haworth, The Disputed Election. In 1887 Congress, by an act, provided for settling such disputes. For the details, see the act in Stanwood, Presidential Elections, p. 453.
the president of the Senate in the chair. Two tellers are appointed by the Senate and two by the House of Representatives. The certificates and documents are opened by the president of the Senate, taking the states in alphabetical order beginning with Alabama, and thereupon handed to the tellers. who read the same and list the votes. The candidates having the greatest number of votes for President and Vice-President respectively, if such number be a majority of the whole number of electors appointed, are declared duly elected. Except in case of a contested election, this count is, of course, merely an impressive formality, for the result is ordinarily known three months before.
In case no candidate for President receives a majority of all the electoral votes cast, the House of Representatives thereupon chooses the President by ballot from the three candidates who have received the highest number of votes. It should be noted, however, that, in selecting the President, each state represented in the House is entitled to only one vote; a quorum consists of the members from two-thirds of the states; and a majority of all the states is necessary to choice. Accordingly, the vote of each state for the presidential candidate must be determined by the majority of the Representatives of the commonwealth in the House. In case of the failure of the House to choose a President (whenever the election devolves upon that body) before the fourth of March following, it becomes the duty of the Vice-President to act as President.
There have been only two instances of presidential elections by the House of Representatives - Jefferson in 1801 and J. Q. Adams in 1825. This is due, of course, to the fact that we have two great political parties somewhat equally balanced. If the voters were broken into several parties the election would almost invariably devolve upon the House.
Whenever no candidate for Vice-President receives a majority of all the electoral votes, the election is thrown into the Senate, and the Senators voting as individuals must choose the VicePresident from the two candidates having the highest number of votes. Two-thirds of the whole number of the Senators constitute a quorum for this purpose, and a majority of the whole number is necessary to a choice.
The qualifications for President are stated in the Constitution.
He must be a natural-born citizen, at least thirty-five years old, and must have been fourteen years a resident within the United States. The same qualifications apply to the Vice-President. The term is fixed at four years, and so far as the Constitution is concerned, the President or Vice-President may be reëlected indefinitely.1
To these constitutional requirements, a third has been added by political practice: no person is eligible to the office of President for more than two terms, at least, in succession. This "third term doctrine," as it is called, is supposed to rest upon the example set by Washington in declining reëlection at the expiration of eight years' service. Tradition has it that Washington acted on principle, but this seems to have slight historical foundation. He did not share Jefferson's decided ideas on rotation in office, and there is apparently no reason for believing that he objected to a President's serving three terms or more. In fact, his farewell address is filled with reasonable excuses why he in particular ought not to be charged with lack of patriotism or neglect of duty in refusing to serve for another term. Jefferson originally believed that the President should have been given a seven years' term, and then made ineligible for reëlection." Later, however, he came to the conclusion that service for eight years with the possibility of removal at the end of four years was nearer the ideal arrangement. He, accordingly, followed the example set by Washington, and thus the third term doctrine early received such high sanction that it became a political dogma almost as inviolable as an express provision of the Constitution.
In case of the death or resignation of the President, the Vice-President succeeds. By statute Congress provided, in 1886, that in case of the death or resignation of both the President and Vice-President the following officers shall serve, in the order mentioned: Secretary of State, of the Treasury, of War, the Attorney-General, the Postmaster-General, the Secretary of the Navy, and of the Interior.
2R. S. Rantoul, in The Essex Institute Historical Collections, Vol. XXXVII, p. 321 (1901).
8 Readings, p. 70.