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Session 01: The Electoral College and Faithless Electors

Session 1: Dr. Robert Alexander - The Electoral College and Faithless Electors
Date of Session: September 22, 2010
Location: Hakes-Pierstorf 122
Time: 7:00PM

Summary: Dr. Alexander spoke with the assembled teachers and students about the Electoral College, the institution that selects the President of the United States.  He argued that while this system has advantages such as legitimizing the winners in presidential elections, and promoting a two-party system, it also violates the value of counting all votes equally.  Winner take all states give all of their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote in their state, regardless of whether the winner has one million more votes or one.  It also gives disproportionate voting power to small states, but also due to the pressure to focus campaign efforts, means that these states rarely see a presidential candidate or campaign commercials. 

Alexander also spoke of the "faithless electors," or those few who have changed their votes from the candidates they were supposed to support.  This has been rare in American history, but the potential exists for widespread disruption of the process.  This is particularly pertinent since interest groups have stepped up efforts in recent elections to lobby electors to change their votes.  This became an issue in the contested 2000 Election, but increased in frequency in the last election.

Several audience members asked Alexander questions on his talk, and the recording of his comments, the questions, and his answers can be found  here. (We are still working on making this recording available here, but for now click here).

Dr. Robert Alexander

PhD - University of Tennessee, 2000
MA - University of Tennessee, 1997
BA - Ohio Northern University, 1994

Robert Alexander is an associate professor of political science at Ohio Northern University. He teaches a variety of undergraduate courses, including introduction to American politics, introduction to political science, state and local government, public administration, interest groups and political parties, mass political behavior, mass media and politics, film and politics, presidency, and Congress. He has been published two books examining the role of interest groups in the American political system. Additionally, his research has appeared in a number of academic journals. Dr. Alexander’s most recent project is a book examining the Electoral College. The book draws upon surveys of presidential electors he has collected with students over the past three elections. In addition to his research, he has been recognized for his teaching through numerous teaching awards. Professor Alexander is a frequent contributor to media outlets, having been interviewed in nearly 80 instances by print, television and radio media. He has appeared on C-SPAN, MSNBC, and NPR’s Day to Day as well as being cited in newspapers from Japan, Singapore, Slovakia, and Poland.

Books: Forthcoming book on the Electoral College; The Classics of Interest Group Behavior, Editor, Wadsworth Publishing, 2006; Rolling the Dice With State Initiatives: Interest Group Involvement in Ballot Campaigns, Praeger Press, 2000