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   Historic Documents on the Electoral College





9/6/2007 6:29 am

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This page documents the electoral vote for President. The Presidential Electors, known informally as the "electoral college," meet one month after the popular vote and cast the electoral vote in the state capitols. The term "electoral college" is not found in the Constitution. It is derived from a French body in the early nineteenth century appointed to choose political leaders and has been used since the 1820s. The election usually called the popular election is actually a series of state elections in which a slate of people is chosen to cast the electoral vote of the state. In 48 states and DC, the slate winning the statewide vote is elected. [In NE and ME, two Electors are chosen statewide and the remainder by congressional district.] The Governor then issues a proclamation called the Certificate of Ascertainment which sets forth the names of all Electors. When the Presidential Electors meet, they elect officers (usually a chairman, vice chairman, and tellers). They cast written ballots for President, which are counted and recorded before they cast the electoral votes for vice president. They then sign a document called the Certificate of Vote which sets forth the names of all candidates receiving electoral votes and the total for each candidate. Most meetings of the Electors include a major speech or two from political leaders and minor speeches or remarks by the Secretary of State. Often, a high school civics teacher brings her students to the meeting to observe this event in the election of the next president. One copy of the Certificate of Vote is sent to the Office of the Vice President in Washington DC. The VP staff places the certificates in two special mahogany boxes: one for the states Alabama through Missouri and one for the states Montana through Wyoming. These boxes have been in use for decades and are only used for storing the electoral vote. The U.S. Senate and U.S. House meet together after the beginning of the new session, with the Vice President presiding. The staff bring in the two mahogany boxes. The two houses of Congress appoint two tellers, who open each state's Certificate of Vote and announce the result. A series of rules was adopted in 1877 for objections to the vote of a particular state. At the end of the process, the Vice President announces the result and declares the new President and Vice President. The Senators then retire to their chamber and the joint session is over.


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