The 538 electors within the Electoral College will cast their votes on Monday.
This has historically been an uneventful, check-the-box moment in the process of electing a president. But in a year brimming with eventfulness, what emerges Monday from this milestone may be interesting – depending on the number of faithless electors who emerge.
To secure victory, presumptive President-elect Joe Biden requires 270 Electoral College votes. Per the states that have certified their results – and barring any further runs at the U.S. Supreme Court, which late Friday afternoon rejected the Texas-based case that alleged violations of Constitutional provisions in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – the Democrat should receive enough votes to be confirmed by the Electoral College.
Whether Biden receives those electors’ votes remains to be determined, which makes Monday another day worth living to see.
Faithless electors didn’t occupy a significant amount of media mindshare in 2016, when electoral college votes for then-presumptive President Donald Trump were made, but 10 dissenting votes were cast that December by electors: Those dissenting electors’ votes went to former Secretary of Defense Colin Powell, former Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio), former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and Faith Spotted Eagle, a political activist and Dakota Access Pipeline objector from South Dakota.
Votes from faithless electors aren’t unprecedented. There have been 14 presidential elections sine 1796 in which someone deviated their vote, but typically (11 times in U.S. history) only one elector had done so.
However, the faithless electors among the 2016 counts were the highest in the nation’s history aside from the 63 elector votes cast in 1872. That year, votes pledged to Horace Greeley were changed after his death in late November. Ulysses S. Grant won that election, and the faithless electors’ votes went to non-presidential candidates.
What will come from the Electoral College votes this year? Well, that remains to be determined. The journalists at The Center Square will approach this with the same curiosity and objectivity that drives our reporting. Perhaps there will be a number of such votes to write about. Perhaps none.
I suspect that it may be interesting, but probably not in itself consequential.
Topical interest in the Electoral College resuscitates itself every four years, but the voices are louder when outnumbered Republican voters win enough states to lay claim to the presidency.
The push there is to give the popular vote a platform.
There is a profound lack of appreciation for the subtlety of our nation, its constitution and laws. We live in the United States (plural – States) of America. The Electoral College, outlined in Article II, Section I of the Constitution, protects the interest of individual states from voter density in metropolitan cites. This guards and ensures the relevance and independence of Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, et al. from the interests of much larger states such as California, Texas, Florida, and New York – each of which has one or more large metropolitan concentrations that are larger than the entirety of some smaller states. As a debate, this lives on – and probably will.
The United States is not perfect. It was created to form “a more perfect Union.” Its founders aimed for their new country to be a better place than the places in the world that they knew, experienced and understood.
We are not very good as a nation in teaching the Constitution specifically, or civics in general. An April 2018 Pew Research Center study that measured Americans’ grasp of reality around the political system (it’s a Constitutional Republic here, by the way) and our democracy found it is low.
But you don’t need Pew to tell you that. Just open your Facebook feed and read what people who you know, who you thought were pretty bright – some of them who may be teachers, doctors, lawyers or others holding advanced degrees – and scan what they’ve had to say about anything potentially political over the past year. It can be stunning.
Consequentially, when voters become of age and then participate in a presidential election, many do not understand what their respective vote means, why the state they live in matters, or how it might be possible that U.S. voting laws don’t jibe with the way votes are cast and tabulated for contestants of “America’s Got Talent.”
An Update on The Center Square’s Issues with Twitter: Twitter finally reached back out to The Center Square through a third party that is skilled in communicating with the massive social media platform. Twitter determined that an algorithm in its system triggered a flagging of our stories posted there. There was no prior human review by Twitter.
Again, The Center Square was blocked from the platform after our reporting team in Illinois broke a story about the release of new documents that included email conversations between Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan’s closest confidants that connect to the matter in which energy producer ComEd has accepted deferred prosecution and agreed to a $200 million fine levied by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The Twitter sin that The Center Square committed was breaking the news, having reported the document dump first, and then having the audacity to share the story to followers on the Twitter platform.
Subsequently, more than 100 stories published by The Center Square were blocked or removed from Twitter by Twitter.
The takeaway here, our journalists now having experienced this firsthand, is social media platforms operate in their own interests and not the public interest. If you know that going in, which we did, you won’t be terribly surprised when something that you have published is taken down. Which we weren’t.
However, what needs to be further examined and discussed is why. Twitter can blame an algorithm for interfering with the posting of content on its platform by chalking it up to a system issue.
But let’s be clear: People create systems.
And whatever system Twitter continues to employ is flawed.
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Elsewhere in America…
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments Wednesday in a class action lawsuit brought against the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) by Austin-based United Airlines fleet service employee Arthur Baisley. At issue is non-IAM members being required to pay union fees despite being based in Texas, a right-to-work state.
The Coffee County Board of Elections and Registration is under investigation for how it handled the presidential election recount in Georgia. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office said it opened an investigation into Coffee County after it missed the Dec. 2 deadline for Georgia counties to complete the recount and a series of events that followed. The statewide recount was done at the request of Trump’s campaign after the initial count and a hand recount and audit of the more than 5 million ballots cast in the race showed Biden topped Trump by more than 12,000 votes.
A new study by the Education Economics Center at Kennesaw State University and the Georgia Public Policy Foundation found the Georgia GOAL Scholarship Program saved taxpayers $53.2 million during the 2018-19 school year. The scholarship program allows taxpayers to redirect some of their state income tax to nonprofit student scholarship organizations for K-12 students to attend a private school of their parents’ choice in exchange for a tax credit. The study also found the academic achievement of the scholarship recipients could lead to taxpayer savings.
House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said Thursday he plans to push for an amendment to the Georgia Constitution that will allow the General Assembly to elect the secretary of state instead of the people of Georgia. Ralston announced the plan after representatives from the secretary of state’s office refused to attend a House Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on the general election.
Legislative leaders and Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration have reached a deal to free up $30 million intended to expand broadband availability in rural North Carolina, Senate Leader Phil Berger said Thursday. Lawmakers passed and Cooper signed legislation in September that allocated $30 million in federal coronavirus relief funding for private providers to apply for grants to expand broadband through the Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) Program.
The Missouri House of Representatives could convene next week to adopt a non-binding resolution seeking to overturn Trump’s presidential election defeat to Democratic challenger Biden. A resolution, sponsored by Rep. Justin Hill, R-St. Charles, calls six states won by Biden on Nov. 3 to “conduct investigations into voter fraud and if they do not, we demand that Congress refuse to certify their electors.” The measure, which is symbolic and carries no weight of law, was co-signed by 66 of the Missouri House’s 163 members.
The Beacon Center of Tennessee’s 15th annual Pork Report identified Nashville’s 34% property tax increase as the most egregious example of government waste, fraud or abuse in the state this year. Tennessee’s $8.2 million no-bid contract for “sock masks” from the North Carolina-based sock company Renfro Corporation also was among the top examples of state waste highlighted in the report.
The saga over legalized alcohol delivery in Louisiana continued Wednesday with a debate about how the delivery companies’ fees should be structured. In 2019, lawmakers legalized alcohol delivery but said the deliveries had to be made by direct employees of the store or restaurant, or by a third-party company with direct, permanent employees. Legislators who supported the restriction said they wanted to ensure the legal responsibility is clear if something goes wrong. But most third-party food and beverage delivery companies use contract workers, not direct employees. Waitr, the only such company using direct employees in the state when the bill passed last year, later moved to contractors.
Florida was not named among the nation’s top “judicial hellholes” for the second consecutive year, according to annual rankings of court systems by the American Tort Reform Foundation (ATRF). “Florida continued to make progress towards improving its legal climate in 2020 as a direct result of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ thoughtful and decisive leadership, as he continued to remake the Florida Supreme Court through two additional appointments,” ATRF wrote in its 2020-21 Judicial Hellhole Report released Tuesday. Florida routinely placed in ATRF’s yearly ranking in the years after it was established in 2002, ascending to No. 1 in 2018.
Illinois Firearm Owner Identification card backlogs continue to mount, bringing the average wait time for a FOID card to 121 days with more than 145,000 pending applications. State officials blamed a number of factors for the delays, including the increase in applications. Illinois State Police said Wednesday the average wait times are 121 days for FOID cards and there are nearly 145,000 pending applications as of this week. About 27,000 concealed carry license applications are pending. Gun groups and gun owners have challenged the FOID law in state and federal courts. A dozen lawsuits are pending.
Illinois is ground zero for the pension crisis and municipalities across the state are looking for ways to deal with growing pension costs. The state’s pension debt is the worst in the nation relative to the size of each state’s economy. Moody’s Investors Service projects unfunded liabilities in Illinois’ state-managed pension systems will grow to an all-time high of $261 billion for fiscal year 2020 as a result of investment losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Taxpayers could be on the hook.
In controversial comments, made Nov. 23 before the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, Michigan State Board of Education Vice President Pamela Pugh advocated cutting state funds for Michigan’s charter schools by 25%. The recommended cut also is included in the MCRC’s “Education Equity in Michigan” report issued on Sept. 30. Pugh also repeated several inaccuracies contained within the MCRC report, including a claim that charter schools are not bound by the same rules and regulations as traditional public schools. She also incorrectly asserted charter schools only skim the best and brightest students from traditional public schools while rejecting students with special needs. Both assertions are untrue. About 67% of all students in charter schools are minorities, compared to the state average of about 34%, and half the students in Detroit and Flint attend charter schools.
Two Michigan bills aim to create a program from Jan. 1, 2021, through Dec. 31, 2030, for commercials, film, television and streaming productions produced in Michigan. The bills, if enacted into law, would offer a 25% credit of direct production expenditures. If the production includes an approved “filmed in Michigan logo” or compensates Michigan employees, the credit would jump to 30%. Nonresident employees could garner a 20% credit.
The latest snapshot of school spending in Wisconsin does not show that spending more results in better grades or test scores. The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty published its analysis of federal and state school spending in Wisconsin. WILL Director of Research Will Flanders said the numbers show that spending more per student does not end in better results.
A judge in Waukesha County issued a temporary injunction Monday that stops the governor from moving ahead with his second attempt to publish a planned coronavirus list, at least for now. WMC has been fighting for months to keep the governor from outing businesses that have seen a customer or a worker test positive. More than 1,000 businesses that had at least two employees who tested positive for COVID-19, or had two or more contact tracing investigations, were reportedly on the governor’s list.
Wisconsin Assembly will open an investigation into the November Election. Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin said that they want answers to the lingering questions about last month’s election. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, announced hearings to look into claims of voter fraud and election malfeasance.
The Minneapolis City Council has voted to divert millions of dollars from the 2021 police budget. The vote was taken as carjackings are up 537% year-to-date, according to the Star Tribune. The council approved reducing the force’s authorized size from 888 to 750 – a 15.5% reduction.
On Wednesday night, Gov. Tim Walz introduced sweeping four-week restrictions to combat COVID-19, sparking outcry from restaurant groups and Republicans warning of the inevitable economic fallout. The restrictions started at 11:59 p.m. Friday and stretch until Dec. 18. Among the restrictions are prohibitions on in-person social gatherings with anyone of another household; limiting restaurants and bars to offer take-out and delivery only; and shuttering gyms, fitness studios and event spaces. Gyms and fitness centers shuttered through Dec. 18 claim the state’s own data doesn’t justify the mandate. From June through Nov. 14, state data reported gyms accounted for 47 COVID-19 outbreaks, making up roughly 7.7% of the states’ 603 total outbreaks during that time. Those 47 gym outbreaks resulted in about 743 COVID-19 cases, according to state data.
An Indiana congressman who pushed for open schools since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic wants teachers to receive the vaccine early. U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, R-Indiana, and a member of the House Education and Labor Committee, called on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to give educators the early option so schools can open more quickly.
The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office announced Thursday that the death of House Speaker Dick Hinch was caused by COVID-19. Hinch, 71, died Wednesday, only a week after he was sworn in as the leader of the state House of Representatives during Organization Day, the first day of the new two-year session. “New Hampshire Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Jennie V. Duval has determined that the cause of Speaker Hinch’s death was COVID-19,” a statement from Attorney General Gordon MacDonald said. “During this difficult time, the family has requested that their privacy continue to be respected.”
While the use of earmarks – allowing lawmakers to direct spending to particular projects without a specific piece of legislation devoted to that topic – has largely been curtailed at the federal level, it’s still a popular tactic in Pennsylvania, a new report recently showed. An analysis of the state’s budget showed $120 million in miscellaneous spending inserted into the “fiscal code,” a bill that determines how the state will spend its revenue. That’s up dramatically from about $60 million in the prior year’s budget and comes despite a $3 billion deficit.
The Empire State has lost almost 400,000 from its population total in the past two years as outmigration has accelerated in one of the most highly taxed states in the country. An analysis of U.S. Census data shows that not only are New Yorkers fleeing to Florida, but neighboring Connecticut has also been a beneficiary as an increase in remote working during the pandemic has made it easier for people to avoid the state’s taxes. New York Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay said the problem of declining population would continue as long as the state continued to suffer from a “toxic” tax climate. “The Assembly Minority Conference has consistently advocated for reforms to the state’s prohibitive tax climate and has railed against the liberal majority’s failure to acknowledge the long-term harm it is imposing on New York,” Barclay said.
In response to the death of George Floyd in Minnesota and the protests that follow across the country, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced new standards for law enforcement officers in the state. DeWine said a new statewide minimum standard for response to mass protests and demonstrations were adopted by the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board after he called on the board to address both chokeholds and mass protests following Floyd’s death. Also, changes were made to the state’s minimum standard for use of deadly force, which now largely prohibits chokeholds and similar maneuvers.
Faced with continued closures, layoffs and an upcoming extension of a statewide curfew, Ohio restaurants and bars want Congress to move quickly to pass relief. In a letter to Ohio’s U.S. senators as well as the House and Senate leadership, the Ohio Restaurant Association said things are worsening in the state and asked for a return to negotiations.
After a pair of ballot measure wins for Colorado taxpayers in the 2020 election, a conservative advocacy organization is setting its sights on another tax-cutting ballot proposal for 2022. Colorado Rising State Action hopes to lower the state’s residential property tax assessment rate by 0.65 percentage points – from 7.15% to 6.5% – and also lower the non-residential property tax assessment rate by 2 percentage points, from 29% to 27%.
While Austin, Texas, Mayor Steve Adler told Austinites to stay home while he was vacationing in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and while a record number of Texans remain unemployed, or are forced to operate their businesses at less than full capacity, a California-based organization paid for roughly 100 legislators from four states, including Texas, to attend a four-day fundraising event in Hawaii.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee added three more weeks to the state’s partial shutdown, which bans indoor dining and limits social gatherings. Small businesses will see an additional $50 million in relief during the shutdown, which is scheduled to end on Jan. 4, 2021.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a likely contender for higher office in 2022, announced he wouldn’t join the legal fight Texas and 17 other states are waging but he’s asking to weigh in. The Republican requested permission from the U.S. Supreme Court to file an amicus brief in the lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton against Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, and Wisconsin seeking to halt their presidential electors from casting votes for Biden. Having defended Arizona’s election against the state GOP’s effort to prove widespread fraud, it’s uncertain which side of the lawsuit he will fall on.
Chris Krug is the publisher of The Center Square. Executive Editor Dan McCaleb, and regional editors J.D. Davidson, Derek Draplin, Delphine Luneau, Brett Rowland, Jason Schaumburg and Bruce Walker contributed to the column.
Electors vote at 10 a.m. ET in:
- New Hampshire
Electors vote at 11 a.m. ET in:
- South Carolina
Electors vote at 11:30 a.m. ET in:
Electors vote at 11:45 a.m. ET in:
Electors vote at 12 p.m. ET in:
- New York
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
Electors vote at 12:30 p.m. ET in:
Electors vote at 1 p.m. ET in:
- New Mexico
- South Dakota
Electors vote at 2 p.m. ET in:
- Washington, DC
- North Dakota
- West Virginia
Electors vote at 3 p.m. ET in:
- New Jersey
Electors vote at 4 p.m. ET in:
Electors vote at 4:30 p.m. ET in:
Electors vote at 5:30 p.m. ET in:
Electors vote at 7 p.m. ET in: