Trump's Election Calls Attention To Electoral College And Small Federal Agency | KERA News

Trump's Election Calls Attention To Electoral College And Small Federal Agency

Nov 29, 2016
Originally published on February 3, 2017 12:48 pm

So here's a riddle: What college doesn't have a campus, or professors, or students or even a football team?

Give up? The Electoral College!

OK, that was a little juvenile (if you really want to bring back your childhood, here's a video explaining the Electoral College by Schoolhouse Rock.)

But there are a lot of misconceptions about the Electoral College, according to Oliver Potts, director of the Office of the Federal Register. The college, he said, is not a place or entity or organization, "it's a process."

Potts's agency is best known for publishing all of the federal regulations and other policies, what Potts calls "the daily business of the federal government." And thanks to a reorganization after World War II, the Federal Register is also the custodian of the Electoral College.

Potts said his office is essentially the institutional memory of the college, keeping current with the process. "We remember what it is and we remind the states, because there are often changes between elections in state office holders.

If you voted on Election Day, you actually chose an elector for president. And that's why Trump won and not Hillary Clinton — she leads the popular vote by more than two million votes, but Trump claimed an electoral majority with 306 electoral votes to Clinton's 232.

On December 19th, electors will go to their respective state capitols and cast their ballots for president. The Federal Register makes sure everything is in order — first, that the electors are eligible, and once they've voted that the paperwork has been signed and properly sealed before sending it on to Congress.

Potts said a lot of people think the Federal Register can somehow affect the outcome of the election. He said his office has been getting calls, letters and some 2,000 emails.

"Some of them are very long and they have a lot of emotion in them," Potts said, like this one from a Trump supporter:

"The Democrats are now trying to abolish the electoral process, have votes recounted and change your minds. I am begging you, for the sake of my children, to not bring about that change. You made the correct choice in electing Donald Trump to begin with, and you need to stick by what has been done. We do not need more corruption in our government."

Potts sid each email is answered by someone in his office. To that writer, they explained the Federal Register's role and the background of the Electoral College.

One the office received from a Clinton supporter urged, "please vote your conscience. Donald Trump is not for the American people." Potts said the office will explain that "we're not the Electoral College and we're not actually voting."

Potts says the Federal Register is "pleased" to have the Electoral College as part of its responsibility, and that's it's rewarding to provide information about it to the public.

Even if a lot of people don't quite understand how it works, and why there are no classes.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

We're going to talk now about the Electoral College. Many people, particularly Hillary Clinton supporters, are asking questions about it after this election. Clinton won the popular vote in the presidential race by more than 2 million votes, but Donald Trump is the president-elect because he won an electoral majority. Now, the Electoral College is not a place. It's a process. As NPR's Brian Naylor reports, it's run out of a small federal agency in Washington, one that's been getting an earful from voters since the election.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: You remember those "Schoolhouse Rock!" segments on TV? They did a little video to try to explain the concept of the Electoral College.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'M GONNA SEND YOUR VOTE TO COLLEGE")

JACK SHELDON: (Singing) No classes, no professors, no tuition, yet we're the goal of every politician.

SHELDON AND UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) 'Cause everyone who graduates becomes a president.

NAYLOR: Oliver Potts knows this refrain well.

OLIVER POTTS: A common misconception is that it is a place or an entity or organization. It's a process. And we are not the Electoral College. Nobody is.

NAYLOR: Potts runs the Office of the Federal Register. That's the agency best known for publishing all of the federal regulations and other policies, what Potts calls the daily business of the federal government. And thanks to a reorganization after the Second World War, the Federal Register also became the custodian of the Electoral College. Potts says his office is essentially the institutional memory of the College.

POTTS: We keep current with the process. Basically, what I mean by that is we remember what it is and we remind the states because there are often changes between elections in state officeholders and so forth.

NAYLOR: If you voted on Election Day, you actually chose an elector for president. On December 19, those electors will go to their respective state capitals and cast their ballots for president. The Federal Register makes sure everything is in order - first, that the electors are eligible, and once they've voted that the paperwork has been signed and properly sealed before sending it on to Congress. Potts says a lot of people think the Federal Register can somehow affect the outcome of the election. He says his office has been getting calls, letters and some 2,000 emails.

POTTS: Some of them are very long and they have a lot of emotion in them.

NAYLOR: He reads me one from a Trump supporter.

POTTS: Here's an excerpt. (Reading) The Democrats are now trying to abolish the electoral process, have votes recounted and change your minds. I am begging you for the sake of my children to not bring about that change. You made the correct choice in electing Donald Trump to begin with, and you need to stick by what has been done. We do not need more corruption in our government.

NAYLOR: Potts says each email is answered by someone in his office. To that writer, they explain the Federal Register's role and the background of the Electoral College.

POTTS: Here's a short one. (Reading) Please vote your conscience. Donald Trump is not for the American people.

So there, again, we would explain that we're not the Electoral College and we're not actually voting.

NAYLOR: Potts says the Federal Register is pleased to have the Electoral College as part of its responsibility, even if a lot of people don't quite understand how it works and why there are no classes. Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.