The functional machinery of elections past

Since I am based in the United States and it’s a year evenly divisible by 4, we have a general elexion coming up. Let’s look at something impressive.

As is common knowledge among people who care, the president of the United States is elected via the system known as the Electoral College. Each State gets a certain number of “electoral votes” depending somewhat on its population and the federal District gets 3. The States enact laws to decide how to cast these votes. Currently they are all done base on the statewide popular vote, although some are trying to change that.

Anyway, the actual voting in the electoral college is done by state. In each state, the electors who were chosen by the voters cast their votes for the candidates for president and vice-president. These particular votes are written out and stamped with the huge seal of the State. Since the State is not a living person, it has no signature, but instead a seal. This is done in sextuplicate and they are sent to various places as backups.

Since these are the third to the last step of the election of the leader of the free world1, they get sometimes seriously tricked out. Fortunately, since 2000 the National Archives or NARA has been scanning in all of these for public view, here2.

While waiting for the ones from 2016 to be indicated and then generated, let’s look at the past ones.

Uncreative Arkansas!

It’s hard to choose the best one, but I think I’ve found the worst one: Arkansas’ Certificate of Vote from 2008.

They got the title wrong! “Certification of President of the United States” doesn’t even make sense. You can see how they improved in 2012.

While we’re on the subject, let’s look at…

Uncreative Vermont!

Come on. This looks like a summons for a traffic violation. I’ll bet they printed it on sub-20 pound paper too.

New York!

In 2012, New York cast this.

A few things to note:

  1. It’s ugly. No heading at all, nothing to make it look good.
  2. Andrew Cuomo was an elector! (He’s currently the Governor)
  3. Andrew Cuomo was absent! (They appointed a replacement)
  4. They used two different paper stocks to print the Certificate (why?)
  5. They use the phrasing “in the year of our Lord” (Arkansas – a redder state – doesn’t)


Despite having a large number of electors, and a big (if overwrought) logo and heading and massive text block, they still kept it to one page.


If anyone is interested, they can view the rest of them here or petition me below to write more summaries.


  1. Not the official title, I just wanted to use it. 
  2. Note that the colors of the links are backwards: lighter color means you’ve clicked on it. 

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A hopefully entertaining blogger, frequently of technical things, but some artistic commentary too.

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