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The Election Process for the U.S. President

Question: When is the President of the United States elected?

Answer: Many of you are probably thinking this question is outdated, that there was already a Presidential election this month. Well, although an election did occur on November 8th as required by the United States Constitution, the President of the United States was not actually elected on this date. Confused yet?

Article 1, Section 4 of the United States Constitution gives Congress the authority to select a date for a National election to occur. In 1845, Congress selected the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November to be the Nation's general election date, as the harvest was in for the year and such allowed farmers the time to vote. Therefore, on this date in Presidential election years, eligible voters select a slate of electors to represent each state at the Electoral College. In application, with President-elect Donald J. Trump winning Florida on Election Day, Florida will send a slate of 29 Electors to vote in the Electoral College for Trump. The margin of victory in Florida is meaningless, as it is a winner take all approach, meaning Trump gets all 29 Electors whether it was a one vote difference or a one million vote difference.

So, when is the President actually elected? Title 1, Chapter 3, Section 7 of the United States Code states the Electoral College shall convene the first Monday following the second Wednesday of December. Thus, in 2016, the President of the United States will officially be elected on Monday, December 19th. The actual individuals serving as Electors are selected by their political party. Thus, in 2016, both the Republican and Democratic parties had a slate of Electors ready to represent Florida, and on Tuesday, November 8th, Florida voters chose to send the Republican slate of Electors to vote in the Electoral College on December 19th.

The Electoral College was created to protect smaller states from being overrun by larger states, as without the Electoral College a Presidential candidate could win the Presidency simply by catering to larger states. To illustrate, in 2016 a Presidential election based upon the popular vote would have resulted in the candidates simply catering to the larger population bases in California, Texas, Florida and New York, with disregard for the remaining smaller states. Most states have a winner take all approach to the Electoral College, just like Florida. Therefore, candidates adjust their campaigns accordingly, writing off a state once it is safely in the hands of the other candidate, as the margin of victory or defeat is meaningless under the winner take all approach for selecting which slate of Electors will represent said state in the Electoral College. Such is why it is always a glaring misunderstanding of the process whenever someone points to the final popular vote, as in reality both candidates would have campaigned differently had the popular vote mattered, rather than the Electoral College.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, as we give thanks for our families, and our freedom to live in such a great Nation.