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The DC Voter
League of Women Voters of the District of Columbia
Vol. 80, No. 1, January 2004

Making Our Voices Heard — Making Our Votes Count

733 15th Street, N.W., Suite 432, Washington, DC 20005
202/347-3020,  fax: 202/347-2522
Website:, E-mail:

President’s Message
Don't Miss These Events
National Program Planning: Election of the President/Presidential Selection
January Unit Meetings to Discuss Plans for National Program 2004-2006
Nominating Committee Gearing Up for 2004-2005 Season
Brown Bag Dialogue
Voter Services: Presidential Primary
Naturalization Ceremony: A New Citizen's Perspective
Congressional Representation: DC Voting Rights Committee
Welcome New Members
Good News from NWVUS
International Relations Committee
NCA News & Notes
Unit News
Growing the League Financially
Calendar, January 2004
The Electoral College and Its Alternatives Dialogue Flyer
About the Electoral College
Lunch, Dessert, Bridge, Scrabble, and More, February 12, Reservation Form


I'm writing this message in mid-December while Christmas music dominates the airwaves, but looking forward to January 2004, when surely our coming democratic elections will be able to use a goodly share of the airwaves. Be sure to note elsewhere in this VOTER that the League of Women Voters of the United States has been and will be an active participant.

January will bring national issues to our attention, first, on January 15 at a Dialogue on The Electoral College and Its Alternatives, to be held at the Sumner School Museum from noon to 2 pm. For full information, see announcement; article and insert. Also note the background information provided in an excerpt from the book "Choosing the President", 2004 edition, provided by LWVUS. (Copies are available from LWVUS at $11). This opportunity is offered to help you prepare for the dialogue and participate actively, as we prepare for reaching a consensus on proposed changes in the LWVUS position by February.

As this Voter is mailed on December 19, Council member Mendelson of the Subcommittee on Public Interest held a hearing on Bill 15-0575 to establish the DC Shadow Delegation Statehood Fund Commission. The Commission will create a mechanism to raise funds to support the activities of the delegation. Kathy Schmidt and I attended the hearing to speak in support of the Bill. In this connection, please know that our shadow Senator Ray Browne has gained the endorsements of 14 cities and two states, and a governor, all apparently at his own expense. Be sure to attend the January 8 meeting of the Voting Rights Committee, to hear Ray Browne speak on the subject.

Many thanks to all of you for your generous support of the DC League - both moral and financial. If member support is an indicator, this organization is healthy.

Best regards,
Frances Gemmill President

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Don't Miss These Events!

Date/Time Event Description
Tuesday, Jan. 6th, 6:30 pm Voting Rights Committee; Guest Speaker: Shadow Senator Ray Browne
Thursday, Jan. 15th, Noon-2 pm "The Electoral College and Its Alternatives"
Guest Speakers: Hon. John Anderson & John Fortier
Saturday, Jan. 17, 10 am Voter Services Cmte Meeting: Planning for the 2004 Election Activities
Monday, Jan. 26, 11:30 am Brown Bag Dialogue; Topic: Juvenile Justice
Guest Speakers: Retta Morris, Director, Justice for DC Youth Coalition

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NATIONAL PROGRAM PLANNING: Election of the President/Presidential Selection

With the 2000 election and its controversies in the recent past, League delegates to Convention 2002 adopted, as part of the LWV agenda for 2002-2004, a review and update of the national position, Election of the President. Unit Meetings to concur or not with a proposed new position will be held in February. In preparation, the DC League is holding a General Meeting on The Electoral College and its Alternatives with speakers John Anderson and John Fortier.

It will be held at Sumner School on January 15th from noon to 2 pm. See the enclosed flyer. See also the background information on the Electoral College contained on the enclosed "green sheet". This text was excerpted verbatim from an excellent new LWVUS publication Choosing the President 2004, which can be purchased for $11 from Lela Sallis (429-1965) at LWVUS National Office.

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January Unit Meetings to Discuss Plans for National Program 2004 - 2006

Every two years, state and local Leagues participate in the LWVUS program planning process by reviewing existing positions and making recommendations for the future. This process reflects the grassroots influence of League members, all of who are invited to participate. DC League members will have the opportunity to do this at Unit Meetings January 20 through 22, when we will discuss all LWVUS positions, possibly choosing one for systematic review and update as we have done with the UN, Trade and Election of the President positions. (See Unit meeting schedule.)

We are also encouraged to make our own suggestions for national program, such as a new study for consensus or a program item for concurrence at Convention. If a new study, we are asked to provide information on sources of funding; if a program item for concurrence, background information must be sent to all Leagues at least six weeks before Convention.

Some Units discussed their own "burning issues" at the December Unit Meetings. We will look at all of these   again   at   the   January   Unit Meetings to see whether we already have adequate positions covering these issues or whether we want to propose one of our own issues to LWVUS as the focus of a new, in-depth study leading to adoption of a new position by League member consensus.

The LWVDC Board will review the record of the January Unit Meetings and forward our report to LWVUS by March 1. LWVUS will then compile the results and make program recommendations for the upcoming biennium. These are sent to delegates to LWVUS Convention six weeks before the convention. The final voting for 2004-2006 National Program Issues by convention delegates at the National LWVUS Convention will take place June 12 -15, 2004.

The full text of current League positions is printed in Impact on Issues 2002-2004, available from LWVUS for $7 and on line at Call Sheila Keeny or our program committee chairs for further information about national program issues of interest to you. — Sheila Keeny (966-1692), 3rd Vice President, National Program

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Your talents are needed! Please feel free to nominate yourself or others to a DC League board position, or just make an informal suggestion. Contact the committee: Chris Matthews (, 269-3890), Mary Rodgers (244-1933), Joan Domike ( 966-3865), Sheila Willet (, 588-1734) or Grace Malakoff (, 387-7540). — Chris Matthews, Chair

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Bring your lunch and a friend.
Time: 11:30 am - 1:30 pm 
Place: 1730 M Street, NW, 10th Floor Board Room
Topic: Juvenile Justice   
Speaker: Retta Morris, Director, Justice for DC Youth Coalition
Anna Marsh (554-7719), Brown Bag Coordinator

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Presidential Primary, Tuesday, January 13

2004 Elections Planning Meeting
Saturday January 17th
Time 10:00 am
Wilson Bldg Room 207
1350 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
(Entrance behind on D Street, must show ID) 

We'll be planning election activities for the coming year. Come and let us know what activity you want to work on. If it is snowing on the 17th, we'll meet in the 24th. — Elinor Hart (387-2966) & Judy Smith (882-3021), Co-chairs

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Naturalization (nat• u• ral• i• za• tion): to become established as if native

On December 12, 2003 I went to the National Archives for my naturalization ceremony. Judy Smith from the DC League distributed Voter Registration forms and a letter from Frances Gemmill stressing the importance of exercising our soon-to-be-acquired right to vote.

In the Rotunda it was very moving to be in the presence of the original Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. This was the first naturalization ceremony held at the Archives Building in several years. Archives recently re-opened after a multi-million dollar renovation.

Chief Judge Thomas F. Hogan of the US District Court entered, then the clerk announced that court was in session to take up Naturalization. Our names and nationalities were read and it became clear that only one person from each country was to be naturalized at this very special ceremony commemorating the 212th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights. The Chief Judge administered the Oath of Allegiance and the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.

Judge Hogan gave a very moving speech about the rights and responsibilities of being citizens, specifically the responsibility to vote and participate in government.

The Deputy Director of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS, formerly INS) cited the example of his boss, Eduardo Aguirre Jr., who arrived in the US as a refugee of 12 from Cuba and became the director of USCIS.

The Archivist of the United States, The Honorable John W. Carlin, explained that the National Archives were collected not for the government but for the people and were therefore open and available to all the people of the US.

The entire ceremony was a delight. It was followed by a fancy reception. I look forward to partaking not just of the benefits but also of the responsibilities citizenship confers. And yes, I have already registered to vote, thanks to the LWV! — Firoze Rao

(Editor's Note: Firoze is the husband of DC League member Susan Rao. Welcome Firoze!)

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Anise Jenkins and Karen Szulgit of Stand Up for Democracy and Paul Strauss, one of our Shadow Senators, spoke to the Voting Rights Committee Thursday, Dec. 11, in the Cleveland Park Public Library. Ms Jenkins and Szulgit stated that Stand Up for Democracy became a coalition in response to creation of the Financial Control Board. It sponsors rallies, protests, letter writing campaigns, and a petition drive. Its emphasis is on grass roots organizing in the District with budget autonomy its main focus. Senator Strauss related the Parliamentary history of the shadow positions, which became a reality in DC in 1990. His work in the Senate is advocacy. As a member of the DC Democratic State Committee he said that the group favors statehood as a means of our gaining voting representation in Congress.

The next meeting will be at 6:30 PM in the Cleveland Park Library Tuesday, Jan. 6. Our Shadow Representative Ray Browne will describe the work he has done over the past few years at city council, state legislature, and governors' meetings to win endorsements for Congressional voting rights for DC citizens. He will also discuss the prohibition attached as a rider to the DC appropriation bill which denies the District the right to use locally raised tax revenues in support of voting rights activities.

In March the committee hopes to hear from Tim Cooper about the work he has done for 10 years at international bodies to argue for Congressional voting rights. The meetings are open to one and all. For additional information call Kathy Schmidt. — Kathy Schmidt (237-5550) Chair

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Welcome New Members

Firoze Rao
Kelly Gasink
Karen Sue Jemmott

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The League of Women Voters of the United States (LWVUS) notes with approval the recent action by the Senate to confirm members of the new Election Administration Commission (EAC) The EAC is part of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), and State election officials have been anxiously waiting for Congress to put the EAC in place, so that the funds available through HAVA can be authorized. The EAC will serve as a commission will serve as a national clearinghouse and resource for gathering information and reviewing procedures, the EAC is responsible for distributing federal election reform funding to each state (and the District of Columbia). Gracia Hillman, former Executive Director of the LWVUS, was confirmed as one of the first commissioners. In addition to Hillman, the commissioners include Paul DeGregoria of the International Foundation for Election Systems, Raymundo Martinez III, an Austin lawyer, and Deforest Soaries Jr., former New Jersey Secretary of State.


On December 10, 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision to uphold key provisions of the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) that had been challenged in McConnell v. FEC. The Court voted 5-4- to uphold the main features of the law, banning "soft money" and restricting "sham issue" advertisements. "This is a huge win for the American public", stated Kay J. Maxwell, President, LWVUS.

LEAGUE SPONSORS TELEVISED CANDIDATE DEBATE: LWVUS has announced that it will sponsor a televised live debate among the leading Democratic candidates for President of the United States, on Sunday, February 15, 2004, in Los Angeles. The program will broadcast on KNBC and be provided to NBC stations across the country, and it will be made available to other media, including broadcast and cable networks. KNBC News-Los Angeles Anchor Paul Moyer will moderate the debate. All major Democratic candidates will be invited to participate, subject to their meeting criteria established by LWVUS. This is the first Presidential primary debate the League of Women Voters has sponsored since 1992. — Frances Gemmill

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In celebration of Human Rights Day the LWVDC nominated Ilir Zherka of DC Vote to be its recipient of a 2003 award by the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area. The luncheon event was held in the Russell Senate Office Building Caucus Room. Sister Alice Zachman, founder of Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA, received the Louis B. Sohn award for her life long commitment to human rights issues. She spoke about torture, which even today despite a Convention forbidding it continues throughout the world.

Fourteen organizations recognized people whose commitment to human rights made them outstanding in their fields of endeavor.

After founding and serving as president of the National Albanian American Council Mr. Zherka is now working through DC Vote to gain voting representation in Congress for DC citizens. The Universal Declaration on Human Rights specifies voting for one's legislature as a human right. — Kathy Schmidt

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The IR Committee will continue its informal discussion of international affairs on Sunday, Jan. 18th, from 2-4 pm at Susan Rao's, 1504 Girard St., NE (Phone 202-636-1688). This month's topic is Afghanistan. The group will hear remarks from a speaker who has recently been to that country, and Q&A and group discussion will follow. For further information, please call   Susan Rao (636-1688) or Anne Porowski (364-0557), Co-chairs

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The NCA Nominating Committee is looking for League members to fill the slate to be presented at the Annual Meeting May 15, 2004. We will be electing a Vice President, Treasurer and two Directors for the 2004-2006 biennium and a Chair and two members of the Nominating Committee for a one-year term.

The NCA Board is composed of members of area leagues so we urge you to give some real thought about members or (yourself) who might be willing to serve. Please notify NCA Nominating Committee member Reggie Yancey ( or 7261929) by February 1 with your ideas.

The next NCA meeting will be held Friday, January 9th at 10 am in the LWVUS Board Room. — Shirley Olson, Nominating Committee Chair

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The January Units will discuss programs for the National Program 2004-2006. One of the challenging tasks that lead up to the League's National Convention, to be held in DC, June 12 - 14 is reviewing LWVUS positions with a view to recommending that they be retained, dropped or updated. As a grassroots organization, the League does this in consultation with its members. Members attending January Unit Meetings are encouraged to identify the "burning issues" that they want the LWVUS to address. See the related article on p.2.

The Unit Council will meet Monday, January 12 at 12 noon in the LWVDC office, 733 15th St., NW. — Joan Domike (966-3865)

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Tuesday, January 20

9:45 am, Southwest Unit will meet in the home of Leona Rumsey (863-7484) 550 N St., #S202, SW
9:45 am, Chevy Chase/Ingleside Unit and Northwest Day Unit will meet at Ingleside Theatre in the Apartments, 3050 Military Rd., NW to hear Guest Speaker, Mary Levy, Attorney, Director of Public Education - Reform Project for the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights speak on DC Public School. This meeting is open to all members. For info contact Joan Wilson 237-6264
6:30 pm In-Town Evening Unit will meet at the Irish Channel Pub/Restaurant (inside the Red Roof Inn) 500 H St., NW (near Gallery PI/Chinatown Metro Stop). 6:30 pm social/7:00 pm Meeting starts. Call Sheila Willet 347-3020 to advise attending so tables can be reserved.

Wednesday, January 21

9:45 am, Upper 16th St. Unit will meet in the home of Judy Smith (882-30210, 7628 17th St., NW

Thursday, January 22

9:45 am, Chevy Chase/Ingleside and Northwest Day will meet again to discuss National Program Planning at the Ingleside Theatre in the Apartments, 3050 Military Rd., NW. For info contact Joan Wilson 237-6264
7:00 pm The Evening Unit will meet (Call Joan Domike 966-3865 for location).

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The D.C. League has received a total of $2,680, (most in December). 32 members contributed $1,135 to Education Fund, and $1,165 to the General Fund. Additional contributions from non-members totaled $380.

Applause goes to Liz Martin and Chris Matthews who organized a direct mail campaign in late November with the help of our gracious mailing committee.

Recent Contributions: We gratefully thank our members for their recent contributions (received through December 15th): Geri Albers, Dorothy Armstrong, Janet W. Brown, Ethel Cooper, Jean Fleming, Ginni Gorman, Sarah Gotbaum PhD, Evelyn Groves, Jean Hall, Gladys Herschel, Natalie Howard, Roberta Johnson, Sheila Keeny, Grace & Robert Malakoff, Elizabeth Martin, Elizabeth McElroy, Betty Ramage, Mary L.B. Rankin, JoAnn Reiss, Mary Rodgers, Kathy .& Al Schmidt, Caroline Shugars, Mary C. Smith, Lillian Smuckler, Constance Sullivan, Mary Weiler, Patricia Wheeler, Sue Whitman, Diane Wilbur, Sheila Willet, Elizabeth Yancey, Barbara Yeomans.

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Questions concerning League membership can be directed to Suzanne Campagna (338-1055) or Linda Softli (667-8210), Membership Chair


Has your League Membership expired? Print the renewal form and mail with your check (made payable to LWVDC) to LWVDC, 733 15th St., NW, Suite 432, Washington, DC 20005-6020.

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CALENDAR: January 2004

        1 Happy New Year! 2 3
4 5 6 9:45 am, Voter registration of new US citizens
Deadline for articles for the February DC Voter
7 10:00 am, LWVDC Board meeting 8 6:30 pm, DC Voting Rights Cmte Mtg. Speaker: Ray Browne 9 10 am NCA Board Mtg. 10
11 12 12:00 pm, Unit Council Meeting 13 7 am-8 pm, Presidential Preference Primary Election 14 10:00 am, Education Committee meeting 15 12:00 pm, General Mtg., The Electoral College and Its Alternatives 16  17 10:00 am, Voter Services Mtg.
18 2-4 pm, IR Cmte Mtg. 19  20 Unit Meetings
9:45 am, Southwest Day
9:45 am, NW Day & Chevy Chase/Ingleside
6:30 pm, In-Town Evening
21 Unit Meeting
9:45 am, Upper 16th St.
22 Unit Meetings
9:45 am, Chevy Chase/Ingleside & NW Day
7:30 pm Evening Unit
23 February DC Voter mailed 24
25 26 11:30 am, Brown Bag Dialogue 27 28 29 30 31

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Invites you to a Dialogue on The Electoral College and Its Alternatives. Thursday, January 15, 2004, 12 Noon to 2 PM, at The Charles Sumner School Museum and Archives,, in the Lecture Hall, 1201 17 Street, NW, Washington, D.C. (Corner of 17th and M Streets. Nearest Metro stop: Farragut North - Red Line). 

Moderator, Benjamin Wilson, Esq., Chair, DC Board of Elections and Ethics

Participants: The Hon. John Anderson, President, Center for Voting and Democracy, Independent candidate for President in 1980. Served for two decades as U.S. Congressman from Illinois. President, World Federalist Association

John Fortier, Executive Director of the Continuity of Government Commission at the American Enterprise Institute


Food will not be permitted in the Sumner School on this day. Plan to get a quick lunch beforehand or afterwards.

For additional information contact: The League of Women Voters of the District of Columbia, 733 15th Street, NW, Suite 432, Washington, DC 20005-6020. 202 347-3020 • 202 347-2522 FAX •   

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[Background material in preparation for the January 15, 2004 "Dialogue on the Electoral College and It's Alternatives." See separate flyer for information about this event. The following material is excerpted from Choosing the President 2004, published by the League of Women Voters of the United States.]

In the beginning the Electoral College had considerable power in making an independent choice among the candidates for president and vice president. But today, the sole function of the Electoral College is to confirm the decision made by American voters at the ballot box.


Under the Constitution, each state is authorized to choose electors for president and vice president; the number of electors per state is equal to the combined number of US senators and representatives from that state. The Electoral College thus includes 535 electors - that's one elector for every member of Congress - plus 3 electors from the District of Columbia, for a grand total of 538.

When voters choose a presidential ticket including the presidential and vice presidential candidate, they are actually voting for electors pledged to this ticket. In all but two states, the ticket that wins a plurality of the votes - in other words, more votes than any other candidate-- wins all of that state's electors. (In Maine and Nebraska, the candidate who wins the state's popular vote gets two electoral votes; the others are awarded according to who wins each congressional district.) This winner-takeall system is what drives candidates to focus so intently in their campaigning on states with large populations and, consequently, large numbers of electors.

To be elected to the presidency, a candidate must receive an absolute majority (270) of the electoral votes. The vice president is elected by the same indirect, state-by state method, but the electors vote separately for the two offices.

If no presidential candidate receives a majority, the House of Representatives picks the winner from the top three vote getters, with each state's delegation to the House casting only one vote, regardless of its size. This has happened twice in U.S. history - in 1800 and 1824. (Note for DC readers: The District of Columbia, with no voting representation in the House, would have no role in this final vote). If no vice presidential candidate receives a majority, the Senate picks the winner from the top two vote getters (same here for DC - i.e., no vote).


Over the years, Congress has debated a number of changes in the Electoral College system. Most of these would require enactment of a constitutional amendment, although individual states can change their own laws governing how they choose electors.

Some people suggest we keep the Electoral College but eliminate the. winner-take-all rule so that a state's electors would better reflect the preferences of all the voters in the state. Under this scenario, a state's electors would either be chosen on a congressional district basis or simply assigned to the candidates based on the percentage of the popular vote each received in the state. For example, if Candidate X received 20 percent of the popular vote in Arizona, that person would be awarded 20 percent of the state's electoral votes.

These changes might bring the electoral vote more in line with the popular vote, but voters still would be electing the president indirectly. The Electoral College, in other words, would still exist. In the 1970s, Congress debated a proposal to eliminate the Electoral College. But that was defeated in the Senate, and since then, proposals to reform or abolish the Electoral College have gained little traction on Capitol Hill. A major reason we still have the Electoral College is that it gives the smaller population states a bigger say in the election than they would have under direct election of the president. It's not likely that these states will voluntarily give up their extra influence over the choice of president. Yet that's precisely what they would have to do for a constitutional amendment abolishing the Electoral College to pass.




It Ain't Broke, so Don't fix it: For the past one hundred years, the Electoral College has functioned without a problem and without much complaint from the public in every presidential election through two world wars, a major economic depression and several periods of civil unrest.

It Fosters the Two-Party System: The winnertake-all system (in all but two states) generally means that third party and independent candidates get few electoral votes. As a result, the Electoral College inhibits the rise of splinter parties that can contribute to political instability and deadlock. (Note: Some people use this argument against the Electoral College, saying its bias against third party and independent candidates locks them out of the process and inhibits debate.)

It Gives Added Power to Minority Groups: Because of the winner-take-all system, a relatively small number of voters in a state can make the difference in determining which candidate gets that state's electoral votes. This gives well-organized minority groups a chance to have a profound influence on the election by getting their voters to the poles. 

It promotes a Federal System of Government: The Electoral College was designed to reflect each state's choice for the presidency and vice presidency. To abolish it in favor of a nationwide popular election of the president would strike at the very heart of our federal system of government, which reserves important political powers to the states.

It ignores the Popular Vote: The Electoral College doesn't base its decision on the popular vote across the country but on which candidates won which states. As a result, there's a chance that someone could be elected president without receiving more popular votes than any other candidates. Two candidates in the 19th century as well as George W. Bush in 2000 were elected president without winning the popular vote.

It Discourages Voter Turnout: The Electoral College system makes many people feel that their vote doesn't make a difference. Voters might be inclined to skip voting ... if it's clear from the news and the polls that Candidate X is bound to win their state. 

It Violates the One-Person One-Vote Ideal: Each state has a minimum of three electors, regardless of its population. This gives residents of the smallest states, which based on their population might otherwise be entitled to just one or two electors, more influence than residents of larger states. It Doesn't Require Electors to Vote the Way they Pledged to:

It rarely happens, but there's nothing preventing electors from defecting from the candidate to whom they are pledged. The main danger of "faithless electors" is that the candidate who wins the popular vote could wind up one or two votes short of an Electoral Majority and the election would be thrown to the House of Representatives.

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