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Minnesota Office of the Secretary of State

Frequently Asked Questions - Presidential Electors

What happens to the presidential elector votes after the electors meet in St. Paul?
What happens after Election Day on November 6, 2012? How and when do the electors assemble and cast their ballots?
How many presidential electors does Minnesota have? What determines this number?
What happens if no candidate receives a majority of the electoral votes cast for either President or Vice-President?
Do the names of the presidential elector candidates appear on the general election ballot?
Are the presidential elector candidates required to receive a majority of the votes cast (50%) in Minnesota?
Would Congress count an electoral vote cast for an individual who was not a presidential or vice-presidential candidate?
What are the qualifications to serve as a presidential elector in Minnesota?
Are the presidential electors required to vote for the presidential and vice-presidential candidates that their party has nominated?
How does a person become a candidate to be chosen as a presidential elector in Minnesota?

Q: What happens to the presidential elector votes after the electors meet in St. Paul?
A:

Federal law requires that copies of the "Certificate of Votes Cast" by Minnesota presidential electors be sent to the Vice President (as President of the United States Senate), to the National Archives, to the senior federal district court judge, and to the Secretary of State of Minnesota. If the certificate sent to the Vice-President were to be lost in transit, one of the copies sent elsewhere would be substituted.

The electoral votes of each state are counted in a joint session of the United States Senate and United States House of Representatives in early January 2013.

After the electoral votes from all states are counted, the Vice-President of the United States declares the candidates receiving a majority of the electoral votes cast in all the states to be President-elect and Vice President-elect. The President-elect and Vice President-elect take their oaths of office for four year terms beginning at noon on January 20, 2013, as specified in the Twentieth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Q: What happens after Election Day on November 6, 2012? How and when do the electors assemble and cast their ballots?
A:

On or before November 16, 2012, each county will convene a Canvassing Board to officially count the votes cast for all candidates in that county. These returns will then be forwarded to the Secretary of State. On November 27, 2012, the Secretary of State will convene the State Canvassing Board, which will count the votes cast for the presidential electors. The State Canvassing Board will declare the persons receiving the highest number of votes for this office to be duly elected.

The Governor will then transmit a certificate of election, signed by the Governor and countersigned by the Secretary of State, to each presidential elector. Minnesota Statutes 208.05.

The presidential electors meet before noon at the State Capitol Building in St. Paul, on a day fixed by Congress (Monday, December 17, 2012). The Governor will then deliver to them a certificate of the names of all the electors. If an elector fails to appear by 9:00 a.m., the other electors will "elect by ballot a person to fill the vacancy." The electors shall notify the Governor who has been elected to fill any vacancy.

The presidential electors then meet at noon "in the executive chamber at the state capitol" and cast a ballot for president, and a separate ballot for vice-president. Minnesota Statutes 208.06, 208.07, and 208.08.

Q: How many presidential electors does Minnesota have? What determines this number?
A:
Minnesota currently has 10 presidential electors. Article 2, Section 1, Clause 2 of the Constitution of the United States provides that each state appoints a number of electors equal to the number of Senators and Representatives to which each state is entitled in Congress. Since Minnesota currently has eight U.S. Representatives and two U.S. Senators, the state is entitled to 10 electors. The number of electors can change after each decennial census when the number of U.S. Representatives elected by each state can change due to shifts in population.
Q: What happens if no candidate receives a majority of the electoral votes cast for either President or Vice-President?
A:
The U.S. Constitution sets forth special procedures for the U.S. House of Representatives to choose the next President, and for the U.S. Senate to choose the next Vice President. See the U.S. Electoral College Home Page for details about these procedures.
Q: Do the names of the presidential elector candidates appear on the general election ballot?
A:
No. The names of the presidential and vice-presidential candidates appear on the ballot, but not the names of presidential elector candidates. Minnesota Statutes 208.04
Q: Are the presidential elector candidates required to receive a majority of the votes cast (50%) in Minnesota?
A:

No. The presidential electors pledged to support the presidential and vice-presidential ticket that receives the most votes in Minnesota are certified as the official presidential electors for Minnesota. The winning slate of electors is only required to receive more votes in Minnesota than any other slate of electors. A majority (50% plus one vote) is not required for an elector to be elected.

Q: Would Congress count an electoral vote cast for an individual who was not a presidential or vice-presidential candidate?
A:

Congress has always counted electoral votes for individuals who were not candidates, with one exception: if a candidate cannot meet (or no longer meets) the Constitutional requirements to serve in the office, Congress has voided electoral votes cast for that person. This last occurred in 1872 when Horace Greeley, the Democratic Party presidential candidate died after Election Day, but before the electoral votes were counted. Although Greeley received some electoral votes, Congress declared them void.

Q: What are the qualifications to serve as a presidential elector in Minnesota?
A:

The qualifications are set forth in the Constitution of the United States. Article 2, Section 1, Clause 2 provides that "no Senator or Representative, or person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector."

Section 3 of the 14th Amendment also states that "No person shall be...elector of President or Vice-President...who, having previously taken an oath...to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability."

Q: Are the presidential electors required to vote for the presidential and vice-presidential candidates that their party has nominated?
A:

No. An elector can cast a ballot for any individual, whether or not the individual was that party's candidate for the office. This has happened several times in other states in recent years.  (In West Virginia, 1988, a Democratic Party elector reversed the ticket and voted for Lloyd Bentsen for President and Michael Dukakis for Vice-President; Washington State, 1976, a Republican Party elector voted for Ronald Reagan for President, although Gerald Ford was the Republican nominee that year; Virginia, 1972, a Republican Party elector voted for John Hospers and Theodora Nathan, the Libertarian presidential ticket.)

In 2004, a Minnesota elector pledged for John Kerry and John Edwards, cast his or her presidential vote for John Ewards [sic], rather than John Kerry, presumably by accident.  (All of Minnesota's electors cast their vice presidential ballots for John Edwards.)  Minnesota's electors cast secret ballots, so unless one of the electors claims responsibility, it is unlikely that the identity of the faithless elector will ever be known. 

As a result of this incident, Minnesota Statutes were amended to provide for public balloting of the electors' votes and invalidation of a vote cast for someone other than the candidate to whom the elector is pledged.

Q: How does a person become a candidate to be chosen as a presidential elector in Minnesota?
A:

Major political parties: Minnesota's major political parties (currently the Independence, Republican, and Democratic-Farmer-Labor parties) nominate candidates for presidential elector by delegate conventions called and held under the supervision of the party‚Äôs state central committee. The state chair of a major party must certify to the Secretary of State the names of the persons nominated as presidential electors and the names of the party candidates for president and vice-president on or before the day of the primary. Minnesota Statutes 208.03

Minor political parties: A minor political party may nominate candidates for presidential elector by circulating a petition. The petition must list the names of the presidential elector candidates and the names of the candidates for president and vice-president. This petition must be signed by at least 2,000 individuals eligible to vote in Minnesota. Candidates for presidential elector must file their petitions on or before the day of the primary. Minnesota Statutes 204B.07, 204B.08, and 204B.09. In 2008, the Constitution, Green, Libertarian and Socialist Workers parties filed petitions for presidential electors and candidates for president and vice president to be placed on the general election ballot.

Write-in candidates: An individual may file a "written request by write-in candidates for federal and state office." This form requests that all write-in votes cast for the candidate be counted. A write-in candidate for president must also state the name of at least one, but no more than ten, candidates for presidential electors. Minnesota Statutes 204B.09, and 208.04.

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