Abstract Musings

Documenting the random thoughts of a cluttered mind

Minnesota's Faithless Elector

In a sure sign that John Kerry ran one of the most forgettable presidential campaigns in American history, one of Minnesota’s ten Democratic electors cast a presidential ballot for “Ewards”. Presumably, it was a vote cast for John Edwards, the Democratic candidate for vice-president. John Edwards then received all ten ballots cast for vice-president. So, did an elector want to lodge an anonymous protest, or did that person just forget the name of the Democratic candidate for president? Either way, none of the electors has come forward to admit the mistake (or take credit for it, if you prefer).

An unknown Minnesota Democrat earned a footnote in history Monday by casting one of the state’s 10 Electoral College votes for John Edwards, the Democratic vice presidential running mate for John Kerry.

The Edwards vote gives Minnesota its first “faithless elector,” the dubious name for Electoral College members who snub the candidate who won the state’s popular vote in the general election. Kerry, who beat President Bush in Minnesota but lost overall, wound up with nine of the state’s electoral votes.

No one claimed credit for the Edwards vote. Several electors said they suspected that someone unconsciously mixed up the two Johns on the ticket rather than purposefully made a political statement.

Look for the critics of the Electoral College to use this incident as another argument for abolishing the it altogether. Although, Timothy Noah in Slate makes the case for exposing the Electoral College vote to the public, thus establishing a method of accountability which might prevent “faithless” electors.

When a ballot is cast in secret in an ordinary election, the result is good for democracy because no voter need worry about being criticized or penalized over his choice. But when a ballot is cast in secret in the Electoral College, the result is bad for democracy, for precisely the same reason. We want electors to worry about being criticized or penalized over their choice, because electors aren’t supposed to exercise choice in the first place. Secrecy makes it impossible to know whether the elector did what the voters sent him to do; it renders the Electoral College unaccountable to the people.