The People's Choice (novel)

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The People's Choice is a 1995 novel written by Jeff Greenfield. When President-Elect MacArthur Foyle dies after the general election, but before the Electoral College has a chance to vote him into office, the media and the election process are swung into chaos.

On Election Day The Republican presidential ticket of Foyle-Block wins enough states to receive 305 Electoral Votes, compared to 233 Electoral votes for the Democratic ticket of Mueller-Vincent. Since 270 Electoral votes are needed to win the Presidency, the issue should be resolved.

Except that President-elect Foyle dies only days after the election in a freak accident. The Republican party then promotes his running mate, Governor Theodore Block, to the top of the ticket. Governor Block quickly proves that he is a mental lightweight, leading some to question his fitness for the Presidency.

One of those questioning Block's fitness to be President is Michigan Elector Dorothy Ledger, one of those forgotten people lost in a party's political machine who seems unimportant—until the fate of an election hinges on her actions. Ledger publicly questions whether she is required to vote for Block, and in so doing sets-off a political firestorm and a minor rebellion among some Republican Electors.

The novel's fictional plot exposes how much of a potential rogue elephant (or donkey) the Electoral College could become. Composed largely of people no one has ever heard of chosen by the political parties from their membership lists (or, as in the novel, some retired officials well past their prime) the 538 Electors vote to elect a President and Vice President—bound, for the most part, by their solemn word to vote for the candidate they are pledged to and little else.

The situation Greenfield sets up demonstrates how, under the right conditions, Electors and their votes can be manipulated by idealism, opportunism and cynicism without reference to the voters who elected them, electing as President in December a person who was not even on the ballot in November.

The kicker—it could really happen, given the right conditions. Imagine what the 2000 Presidential election would have been like if one Republican Elector in New Hampshire had voted for Nader and one Republican Elector in Arizona had voted for McCain. Suddenly, the Florida vote count becomes just an opening act. Writing five years before that election, Jeff Greenfield gives us a sample of just what Act II might have been like.

One of the marketing blurbs on the book's cover conveys it best: "Read this while it's still fiction."