How can I serve on the Electoral College? A simple question, with a complicated answer.

You see, each state has its own rules, and parties may have different procedures even within the same state. I have direct experience only with the Democrats’ process in my fair state.

So this post is naturally about becoming a Democratic elector in Minnesota. This will be the first in a series covering various states and parties.

Note: In many if not most states—including Minnesota—it’s too late to apply for elector this year, at least as a Democrat or Republican. For the definitive word, contact the state office for your party of choice. And hey, we’d love to know what you find out!

Minnesota law states: “Presidential electors for the major political parties of this state shall be nominated by delegate conventions called and held under the supervision of the respective state central committees of the parties of this state” (Minnesota Statutes 208.03).

On the Democratic side, we implement this by picking one elector candidate at each of our eight congressional district conventions (which were held this year in April and May) and two at the state convention (June), for a total of 10. We also nominate an equal number of elector alternates.

In order to run for elector at the district level, you first have to fill out a screening questionnaire. There, you provide your contact info, outline your past experience, expound on why you’re running, float ideas for the position, and so on. This might run about 2-4 pages.

Next, you meet with a nominations committee, made up of maybe 20 delegates. Their purpose is to pre-screen candidates for district chair (my old job), other party officer positions, various committee slots, and presidential elector. You give a brief presentation about yourself, then they ask you some questions about the position, your questionnaire, and so forth. It’s kind of like a short job interview with a large hiring committee.

At or shortly before the convention, the committee announces its recommendations for each position. Hopefully you make the cut.

Finally, it’s the big show: the district convention, consisting of about 200 state delegates. Some of the main items of business here are the endorsement of a candidate for U.S. Congress and the election of National Convention delegates. When the time for the elector vote comes, the nominations committee presents your name to the convention.

At this point, other people can be nominated out of the blue. If no one else runs, there’s usually an instant voice vote to approve you. If a contest exists, an election process is held, including short speeches, a Q&A period, and a paper ballot.

I did it at the district level (shout-out to CD5!) but if that doesn’t work out for you, you have the option of throwing in at the state convention. The process is basically the same there, but larger by an order of magnitude, with about 1400 delegates to contend with.

Of course, even after making it through all of the above, you ultimately become an elector only if your party’s presidential ticket wins statewide in November.

In a future post, I’ll cover the attributes and qualifications the delegates tend to look for in elector candidates.

Note: I do welcome feedback from those of you in other states and other parties, particularly if you’ve run for elector yourself. I especially want to publicize states where people can still file for elector—if any are left!

4 thoughts on “Becoming an elector (D-Minnesota)

  1. I like your explanation of the electoral college, but I have a question.

    Suppose that on election day there is a massive, last-minute, spur-of-the-moment, mob mentality write-in effort – an unaffiliated Dave Lee is written in for U.S. president, and wins with 85% of the vote in Minnesota. Given that there was no party associated with Dave Lee in my example, how does Minnesota select the electors in that case? Does the state legislature select some spare electors to cover a case like this? If that is the case, in Minnesota are they required to vote in accordance with the winner of the popular vote in Minnesota? Thanks.

  2. Interesting question! From my reading of the law, write-in candidates for county, state, and federal offices in Minnesota have to file a form with the Secretary of State at least seven days before the general election. This includes presidential candidates, with the additional stipulation that they also have to name a vice-presidential candidate and at least one elector.

    Presumably (although I don’t see this explicitly stated), votes cast for a candidate who doesn’t meet these requirements would simply be discarded as “spoiled ballots.” In your example—and just for the record, I’m not running for president until at least 2016!—that would mean that the 85% of votes for Dave Lee would be discarded and the highest vote getter among the remaining 15% would get the electors.

    The statute is at:

  3. OK, thanks. But then……

    In my example, if you *had* filed more than seven days prior to the election, *and* you had nominated only one elector (for some crazy reason), and you won 85% of the vote, then what would happen? It seems to me that you would get your one elector, and the remaining nine electors would be given to the second place person (assuming the second place person was a major party candidate who properly nominated electors in the usual fashion) – is that correct? And if that is correct, how would the state know which of the ten “first string” electors from that major party would be the nine to become the electors due to that second place person?

  4. Hmm. That scenario doesn’t seem to be spelled out. I don’t think they would use a different candidate’s electors, though, because that doesn’t fulfill the wishes of the 85% of people who voted for Dave Lee.

    My guess is that they would follow the rules for elector vacancies (when there aren’t enough alternates) — in which case, the existing electors can elect additional people to fill the vacant slots.

    So in your example, the lone Dave Lee elector would single-handedly “elect” the remaining nine electors, who would then cast the votes as if they had been on the list all along.

    Of course, since it isn’t quite addressed in the law as far as I can tell, that’s just my guess as to how it would be interpreted.

    Here’s the statute I’m looking at:

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