Republican Party National Platform Has Muddled Statement About Electoral College

The 2012 Republican Party national platform has this plank on the electoral college: “We oppose the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact or any other scheme to abolish or distort the procedures of the Electoral College. We recognize that an unconstitutional effort to impose ‘national popular vote’ would be a mortal threat to our federal system and a guarantee of corruption as every ballot box in every state would become a chance to steal the presidency.”

Under existing law, there isn’t one “procedure” for the electoral college. In Maine and Nebraska, each U.S. House district chooses its own presidential elector, whereas in the other 48 states and D.C., the winner-take-all rule applies. One can’t determine whether the Republican Party plank is meant to oppose the Nebraska/Maine method or not. Also the Texas Constitution says if the vote within Texas for president is too close to be adjudicated, the state legislature has the authority to choose the state’s presidential electors. One wonders if the plank is meant to express disapproval of the Texas provision.

The plank’s last sentence seems to be an admission that under current law, the voters of most states do not actually help determine who wins the presidential election.


  1. That last sentence seems to imply that the Republican Party owns the presidency. That is a far scarier thought than any attempt to change the electoral college.

    Then there is the “unconstitutional effort” part. Since when is amending the Constitution “unconstitutional”?

  2. Richard Winger · · Reply

    Well, the national popular vote plan doesn’t amend the constitution. It retains the electoral college.

  3. Richard, you meant the other 48 state not 49 unless we added a 51st state I don’t know about. 🙂

  4. Richard Winger · · Reply

    #3, thank you. I fixed it just now.

  5. Jim Riley · · Reply

    The usual example given of a popularly elected president is Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation, who has recently suggested that perhaps the federal members could elect their own governments.

    It is reasonable to view the national popular election of the President as a threat to our federal system. United States is a plural noun. “Our” is the proper pronoun which belongs to the People of the several States, and not to the People of a unitary non-federal State.

  6. The National Popular Vote Plan doesn’t threaten the right of any state. Under the National Popular Vote Plan, each state still has its own electoral votes and can award them according to state law.

  7. Doug McNeil · · Reply

    Muddled, it definitely is. Reasonable people can certainly oppose the National Popular Vote plan, but it’s hardly “unconstitutional.” In fact, it’s the only way to effectively get rid of the Electoral College, without having to amend the Constitution.

  8. Wow, how did I not know that the Texas legislature had the lawful ability to “choose” the president in case of a close election. A very scary thought once Texas begins becoming a competitive state…I give it 3 more presidential cycles. I would be grateful if someone could cite the location of that verbiage in the Texas constitution regarding the Tex Lege authority to “choose”.

  9. #8, it was on the November 2001 Texas ballot as a proposed constitutional amendment, which the voters overwhelmingly approved. I think if the November 2001 state election returns are on the Texas Secretary of State web page, you can find it.

  10. Jim Riley · · Reply

    The Texas legislature does not have the authority to call itself into session. The amendment passed in 2001 requires that the governor call the legislature into special session in the case where there is a reasonable likelihood that a final determination (ie ascertainment) of the appointment of presidential electors will not be made by the deadline set by Congress. That is why this provision is in Article 4 (Executive) rather than Article 3 (Legislative) – it is a duty imposed upon the Governor by the People of Texas.

    Under the US Constitution the Texas Legislature has the supreme and plenary authority to direct the manner by which Texas’ presidential electors are appointed. It is only prudent that in extraordinary circumstances where the manner which they have directed may not be effected, that the legislature be called into session in order the presidential electors be appointed. You wouldn’t want a repetition of the 1789 debacle where New York failed to appoint its presidential electors.

    The Texas Constitution is consistent with principles of federalism and separation of powers.

  11. Jim Riley · · Reply

    #8 Article IV Section 8(b)

  12. Baronscarpia · · Reply

    7 –

    NPV does not “get rid of” the EC. It is an alternative means by which states can allocate their electors, and it is perfectly consistent with the language by which the EC was created.

    So suck it, Jim Riley, you spectacular tecnhicolor Republican tool.

  13. Doug McNeil · · Reply

    Brad —

    The presidency is a federal office, so the state legislature’s authority to appoint presidential electors is in the US Constitution, Art. II, sect. 1, cl. 2 — and cannot be overridden, even by a state constitutional provision.

    Florida’s legislature almost did that in 2000. While all that hanging chad stuff was going on, the Republican-controlled state House quietly voted to appoint its own slate of electors, and the state Senate was poised to vote on it too, when the US Supreme Court intervened and let them off the hook.

    And if Florida’s Senate had voted to do that, it would have been legal under 3 USC.

  14. Jim Riley · · Reply


    HJR 45 passed the House on a 145:1 vote, and the Senate on a 30:0 vote.

    It was approved in a special election on November 6, 2001 on a 507,716 to 308,643 vote (62.19% Yes)

  15. Jim Riley · · Reply

    #13 It would be a little dicey to use the authority from the US Constitution for the Texas Legislature to call itself into special session, and the US Supreme Court has recognized that it is proper to recognize the role of the governor in the legislative process, such as the gubernatorial veto. Certainly the role of the governor in calling the legislature into special sessions is along those lines (ie a law is not a law, unless it is enacted in a constitutionally convened legislative session; just as it is not a law if the governor vetoes it and the veto is not overridden.)

    The amendment to the Texas Constitution requires the
    governor to call a special session in those circumstances. Presumably, the special session would first direct a new manner of appointment, and then if that manner were to be legislative appointment, they would make the appointment.

    Federal law permits a State to make its appointment after the original date set for appointment, if it fails to make an appointment. Presidential elector appointments are regarded as having been made on election day – we just don’t always know who has been appointed until a few days later.

    So if the Governor determines that an ascertainment of who was appointed will not be made in time, then he must call the Legislature into session to resolve the issue. The Texas constitution does not dictate the manner of appointment, as of course it may not.

  16. Doug McNeil · · Reply

    Jim —

    This is old settled case law. McPherson v. Blacker,146 US 1 (1892).

    And probably in most states there is some procedure to convene the legislature for a special session, without the consent of the governor. Or if there isn’t, then there should be.

  17. Republicans just can’t help themselves, I guess. Time and time again they make public admissions of their transgressions against democracy. The PA majority leader recently proudly proclaimed that the voter ID law recently passed in that state would deliver his state to Romney this fall. Now the Republican Party has a Freudian slip in their platform, acknowledging that they have made concerted efforts in the recent past to steal states’ EC votes.

    The question is whether American voters will notice that one party – that’s right, ONE party – is engineering a bloodless coup against their constitutional right to vote, and as a consequence, virtually every other right they cherish may be left up to civil rights execution panels manned by a few dozen rich old white men.

  18. On the voter ID laws. I agree with all the efforts to overturn them, and make the kind of changes that make the process better. But at the same time why is everyone not putting their efforts into getting every voter qualified.

    In Texas, they do not allow student id but do a gun license. Were is the effort to get all students a gun license. Thought the idea is as dumb as the law.

  19. ” effort to get all students a gun license. ”

    I’m for it!

  20. Jim Riley · · Reply

    #16 The only way for the Texas Legislature to meet is in the regular biennial session; or to be called into special session by the Governor.

    If you read Article IV, Section 8(b) of the Texas Constitution, or read HJR 45 (77th Session, 2001), it is clear that its purpose is not to grant authority to the legislature to appoint electors, but rather to place an affirmative obligation on the governor to call a special session. The amendment does restrict the governor from adding extraneous matters to his call, or the legislature from considering them.

    If a legislature does appoint its States presidential electors, it is a two-step process; first to direct that the appointment be done by the legislature, which likely would give additional details how the appointees are to be chosen; and second the actual appointment.

    To understand this, consider the process used in Tennessee in the late 18th century, where an intermediate body made the appointments. The Tennessee legislature directed the manner by which this intermediate body would be constituted, and also how it would proceed to make its appointments. In that instance, it was the legislature that appointed the intermediate body.

    Or a more direct example can be found in Missouri Revised Statutes 128.080, which provides that the legislature make the appointment of presidential electors in case of a tied popular vote. It specifies that the appointment be made by joint vote of the members of the legislature. This procedure would not necessarily require the general assembly to be called into session as the members of the legislature would be acting as members of a specially-constituted appointment body which they were ex-officio members of by virtue of their being legislators, rather than acting as a legislative body.

    But this is different than in Texas since the Missouri legislature has already passed this manner regulation.

    McPherson simply said that the legislation passed by the Michigan legislature directing the manner by which its presidential electors would be appointed (election by popular vote by congressional district and two special electoral districts each covering half the State) was a valid exercise of the authority vested in the Michigan legislature by the US Constitution.

    McPherson noted that there was no right to vote for President in the Constitution, and that the 14th and 15th Amendments had not granted such a privilege. But rather, those Amendments simply required that if a State happened to hold a popular election for purpose of appointment, they could not restrict the electorate on the basis of race, and if they restricted the franchise to some citizen males over 21, that there would be a pro rata reduction in the State’s congressional representation.

    If one wanted to ensure that (only) citizens over the age of 18 elect the president, a constitutional amendment is necessary.

    The NPV scheme includes no definition as to who may vote in presidential elections; no uniform provisions for conducting the election; a jury-rigged canvassing scheme which based on past elections would appear to require missing the ascertainment deadline, and no recount provisions.

  21. Jim Riley · · Reply

    #19 In Texas, a CHL, driver’s license, or ID requires a more thorough check.

    A school ID simply requires a camera and many colleges are private schools. Why don’t colleges require use of a driver’s license or state-issued ID?

  22. 20 –

    What a great country we’re becoming. Higher education available only to students who are qualified to pack sidearms. That’s a great idea. To hell with SAT’s.

  23. No, get all the book learning you can, and educate yourself in self-defense and resistance to tyranny of every type, from rhetorical and educational, to political, artistic and theatrical, and even armed as a last resort, along with many other kinds.

    Politicians, tyrants and criminals prefer unarmed and ignorant subjects/victims.

  24. Psst…Paulie – look behind you! It’s BIG GOVERNMENT coming to get YOU. Just YOU!

    Draw down and fire!

  25. Oh wait…I was wrong. It wasn’t BIG GOVERNMENT. It was a tyrannical juggler.

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