ArtII.S1.C4.1 Timing of Electoral Votes Generally

Article II, Section 1, Clause 4:

The Congress may determine the Time of chusing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.

In order to reduce the risk that cabals would manipulate selection of the President, the Framers provided for Congress to select a single day on which the electors would vote for the President.1 Discussing the benefits of this provision at the Constitutional Convention, Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania stated: “As the Electors would vote at the same time throughout the U.S. and at so great a distance from each other, the great evil of cabal was avoided. It would be impossible to corrupt them.” 2 In his Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, Justice Joseph Story further explained the reasoning behind this provision, stating:

Such a measure is calculated to repress political intrigues and speculations, by rendering a combination among the electoral colleges, as to their votes, if not utterly impracticable, at least very difficult; and thus secures the people against those ready expedients, which corruption never fails to employ to accomplish its designs. The arts of ambition are thus in some degree checked, and the independence of the electors against eternal influence in some degree secured.3

Supporters of the provision also noted that holding the vote on a single day would facilitate the election of the most highly respected and well-known persons, as only such persons would likely be familiar to an untainted pool of electors. For instance, during North Carolina’s debates on ratification, future Supreme Court Justice James Iredell noted that requiring the electors to vote on the same day would increase the likelihood that “the man who is the object of the choice of thirteen different states, the electors in each voting unconnectedly with the rest, must be a person who possesses in a high degree the confidence and respect of his country.” 4

See, e.g., 2 Records of the Federal Convention 500 (Max Farrand ed., 1911). back
Id. back
3 Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States § 1469 (1833). back
3 The Debates, Resolutions, and other Proceedings, in Convention, on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution 101 (Jonathan Elliot ed., 1830). back