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I know the parties typically select electors on a state by state basis. However, who has the actual legal authority to select electors?

For example, could the candidate over-rule their party if they disagreed on electors? Another example, if an independent candidate, say Kanye, who doesn't have an official party made got met the requirements to be on the ballot, would they be required to choose their own slate of electors in every state?

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    Every state has its own rules (laws) about how the electors are defined. Which state are you asking about? – Aganju Aug 16 '20 at 1:40
  • All of them, effectively. The real question is what a true independent candidate (no party) would have to do to get electors nominated who would vote for them. – JohnFx Aug 17 '20 at 15:21
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This varies from state to state, but as a general rule electors are chosen by the political party in question, either at the state party convention or by an internal committee. Electors are chosen from a short list of party loyalists: party leaders, elected officials, prominent activists, etc., though federal law excludes federal officials from serving as electors. Some states allow voters to vote for their electors, who appear on the ballot along side the candidate, but in most cases citizens vote for a candidate, and then the winning party sends its pre-chosen electors to cast the vote in the Electoral College.

Presidential candidates don't have any specific say over who is and is not an elector, but obviously presidential candidates are members of the inner circle of the party, and could exercise significant influence for or against any particular nominee.

For a complete list of state rules and regulations concerning electors, please see this document from the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS).

Note that although it does not seem to be explicitly written into law at the state or federal level, presidential candidates are pragmatically obliged to work with a party: electors must be certified by the party chair; rules for choosing electors must be set out in bylaws or other official documents, donations must be handled in certain ways to receive tax deductions and satisfy legal restrictions, etc. This means that an independent candidate would have to create a formal political party organization satisfying state and federal non-profit regulations. They would have to find and establish a board of directors who would then write bylaws, hire executive officers, set up financial structures, file tax and legal documents, etc. It is genuinely difficult to 'legally' construct a non-profit in which a single individual retains sole control, so it would be unlikely that a candidate could construct a party that would 'officially' serve his interests directly, though obviously someone sufficiently charismatic or wealthy could finagle a board of directors and chief executive officers who were sycophants.

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  • I appreciate this answer, but it doesn't get to my core question. What I'm really asking is how electors would be chosen for a candidate with no political party. – JohnFx Aug 17 '20 at 15:20
  • @JohnFx: Sorry, I blew right past that. I'll amend my answer in a little bit. – Ted Wrigley Aug 17 '20 at 15:54
  • Interesting Answer. this implies that it is virtually impossible to run for President without a political party or at least the shell version of one. – JohnFx Aug 18 '20 at 16:35
  • @JohnFx: Yes. Though honestly, the scope and complexity of running a national campaign demands a large organization regardless. I imagine someone sufficiently wealthy could run a for profit corporation aimed at getting him elected to the oval office, though he'd have to tread carefully around campaign finance laws and deal with a huge public-perception problem – Ted Wrigley Aug 18 '20 at 17:03
  • I find this answer interesting, but... I am not sure what to make out of its implications. Take for example Ross Perot's campaign 1992, one of, if not the, most successful independent tries at presidential elections. Are you saying that, if he did not have a ready electoral college mechanism in place, in each state, he could not have taken up the office, even if he had won? what would happen then? – Italian Philosophers 4 Monica Aug 18 '20 at 21:00

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