The Constitution provides that "Each State shall appoint, in such manner as the legislature thereof may direct, a number of l Art. II, Sec. II. CI. 1; Art. II, Sec. II, CI. 2.
electors, equal to the whole number of senators and representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress; but no senator or representative, or person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States shall be appointed as elector." 2
It will be observed that the Constitution gives complete power to the States in the selection of presidential electors. The provision is that each State shall appoint, in such manner as the legislature thereof may direct. There is no requirement as to their election by the people. And, so plenary is the power thus given to the States in this respect, they may, if they see fit, as Representative Storrs once said, vest the appointment of electors in "a board of bank directors, a turnpike corporation, or a synagogue." 3
As a matter of fact during the early years under the Constitution in many of the States presidential electors were not elected at all, but appointed by the legislatures, and this practice did not wholly disappear until quite recently. South Carolina practiced legislative appointment until 1860, and Colorado appointed in this manner in 1876.4 At the present time, in all the States, the electors are chosen by popular ballot on a general ticket. It is, however, within the power of the States to provide for their election by districts, and this was done in Michigan in 1892. The constitutionality of this law was questioned in the Supreme Court of the United States, but was upheld by that tribunal in McPherson v. Blacker.5
In its opinion the court enter into an exhaustive historical review of the debate in the constitutional convention and of the practice of the States since the adoption of the Constitution, and show that the provision that "each State shall appoint" the electors, is to be construed as granting to each commonwealth plenary discretion as to the manner in which, and the agencies through which, these electors are to be selected. "If," declares the opinion, "the legislature possesses plenary authority to direct the manner of appointment, and might itself exercise the appointing power by joint ballot or concurrence of the two houses, or according to such mode as designated, it is difficult to see why, if the legislature prescribes as a method of appointment choice by vote, it must necessarily be by general ticket and not by districts. In other words, the act of appointment is none the less the act of the State in its entirety because arrived at by districts, for the act is the act of political agencies duly authorized to speak for the State, and the combined result is the expression of the voice of the State, a result reached by direction of the legislature, to whom the whole subject is committed."
2 Art. II, Sec. 1.
3 Quoted by Dougherty, The Electoral System of the United States, p. 21. 4 Finley, The American Executive, 332.
5 146 U. S. 1; 13 Sup. Ct. Rep. 3; 36 L. ed. 869.
As to the objection that the word "appoint" is not the most appropriate word to describe the result of a popular election, the court say: "Perhaps not; but it is sufficiently comprehensive to cover that mode, and was manifestly used as conveying the broadest power of determination."
. . . "In short, the appointment and mode of appointment of electors belong exclusively to the States under the Constitu-tion of the United States. They are, as remarked by Mr. Justice Gray in Be Green (134 U. S. 377, 10 Sup. Ct. Rep. 586, 33 L. ed. 951), 'no more officers or agents of the United States than are the members of the state legislatures, when acting as electors of federal senators, or the people of the states when acting as the electors of representatives in Congress.' Congress is empowered to determine the time of choosing the electors and the day on which they are to give their votes, which is required to be the same day throughout the United States, but otherwise the power and jurisdiction of the State is exclusive, with the exception of the provisions as to the number of electors and the ineligibility of certain persons, so framed that congressional and federal influence might be excluded."