In a normal election cycle, the meeting of the U.S. Electoral College goes virtually unnoticed. The 2016 race to the White House, however, has been anything but normal. Recent allegations from both the CIA and FBI that Russia essentially “hacked the election,” come as the apparent state-by-state electoral college loser Hillary Clinton leads the overall national popular vote by 2.8 million — and then there is the matter of how the presumed winner, Donald Trump, has shown a rather personal interpretation of basic constitutional standards.
Still, having won 306 electors to Clinton’s 232, Trump should, in all likelihood, be officially elected president of the United States today: The local officials who have been designated as the electors will almost certainly all follow through with the formality of attaching their ballot to the popular voting results in the respective states. Still, there is wiggle room.The New York Times notes that while some state laws require their electors to vote according to the popular vote, “nothing in the Constitution, or in federal law, binds electors to vote a particular way.”
In the past few days, many have referred to this quote from the American “founding father” Alexander Hamilton about the purpose of the Electoral College, to ensure “that the office of president will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”
To the naked eye, the system itself seems both complicated and antiquated — and more than ever, experts and citizens alike are calling for its elimination to better serve the needs of a tuned-in modern democracy.
But for this election at least, the Electoral College still reigns supreme in America.
Across the Atlantic, today’s front page of leftist French daily Libération captures this odd global interest in what is typically a passing formality: “Trump, unless …”
Libération, Dec. 19, 2016