It's a little ironic that the Electoral College—the very institution that got us into this mess—now holds the only hope of getting us out. It's admittedly a very faint glimmer of hope, but not an impossibility: Trump's electors could refuse to vote for him, and effectively nullify the election. The fact that Hillary won the popular vote gives the idea a moral and political credence. Yes, a general revolt of the Electoral College is utterly unprecedented in American history—but then, so is the election of a balls-out fascist as president. And there have been decisive outbursts before in American history of Mugwumpery—sensible Republicans so aghast at their party's own candidate that they defect to the Democrats. A New York Times primer on the Electoral College explores the question:
Has an elector ever 'gone rogue' or broken his or her promise? Would that be legal?
Yes, this has happened many times. There's even an insulting name for an elector who does so: a "faithless elector."
But faithless electors have never affected the final result of any presidential election.
Until now. The campaign has been launched under the hashtag #NotMyPresident. Here's the basic theory, as laid out by one campaigner:
The electoral college does not vote until December 19th. We have 40 days.
What does this mean?
Right now, the presidential election results are only a PROJECTION of the election outcome. They are PRELIMINARY RESULTS. A candidate still needs to earn 270 electoral votes to win. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, which means that more than 50% of the voters wanted her for president. The electoral college shouldn't guarantee an override of the public's opinion– and it doesn't have to.
There are 21 states that do NOT restrict which candidate the electors vote for.
Out of these 21, Hillary lost 16—worth 166 electoral votes. In these states, it is perfectly legal for electors to switch their vote. Now follow the math…
As it currently stands, Hillary Clinton is projected to receive 232 votes. Trump is projected to win 306. This means that 37 votes need to be taken away from Trump to bring him down to 269. Hillary Clinton needs 38 votes ADDED to win 270. These electoral voters can also abstain, which means that they can refuse to vote for either candidate. If 37 of the voters within these states abstain then no candidate will have reached the required 270. In this case, the vote would be taken to the House.
Trump won Pennsylvania, a state that typically votes blue, by less than 100,000 votes. While it is highly unlikely to get all 20 electoral voters to cross party lines and vote democrat, it also isn't impossible to convince a few of them to be "faithless electors." We only need to convince 38 out of the 166. That is 23%. There are SIXTEEN states we need to focus our attention on…
The accompanying map shows Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, Missouri, Kansas, Indiana, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Arizona and Idaho.
A move like this would be unprecedented. However, as we all saw on November 8th, odds don't guarantee reality. Trump had a less than 20% [chance of] winning, yet given the circumstances, enough people came together and made it happen. We can make this happen.
Ask yourself this: What do we have left to lose? We can stay complacent and accept that this country will be run by a racist, sexist, islamophobic, homophobic, ablest bigot, or we can at least try.
Other campaigners are using the hashtag #ElectoralNullification.
Daily Kos is in the wake of this debacle pushing a petition to "Abolish the Electoral College." By all means support it, but it won't get us out of the immediate mess now. The electoral nullification idea could. It is a longshot, but not impossible. We owe it to ourselves and posterity to do all we can to make this idea go viral by Dec. 19.
Petition for Electoral Nullification
The petition "Electoral College: Make Hillary Clinton President on December 19" is online at Change.org. It has won 2,010,778 signatures, of the 3 million it seeks.
Sign it. It can't hurt. And if nothing else, we can undermine Trump's credibility from jump street. Exactly as the right undermined Obama—except for legitimate reasons.
Electoral Nullification was broached in August
Politico reported Aug. 25 that members of the Electoral College from Texas were threatening not to vote Trump. Quoted was Chris Suprun, who said he won't rule out throwing his vote to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton if Trump didn't moderate. "I'm not a professional politician. I've got no training on this one. The nominee is…saying things that in an otherwise typical election year would have you disqualified."
Would-be rogue elector backs down
Well, the New York Post caught up with Chris Suprun, who now says he intends to vote for Trump. But the idea has been broached—it is in the political discourse. Let's keep pushing.
Can we impeach him before he takes office? Serious question.
From KUTV in Salt Lake City:
May electors defect? Actually, yes….
The Green Papers explored the question in a commentary after the 2000 elections, entitled "May Electors Defect?" Ironically, it finds that under the framers' "original intent," electors were supposed to be "free agents"—but that case law is ambiguois and divided on the question. Time for the conservatives to swallow some of their own "original intent" medicine?
Yes, this is the longest of longshots. I nonetheless consider it to be tactically critical. The odds of it actually working are vanishingly slim (although not quite zero, as it is technically legal and things are just topsy-turvy enough). But it positions us well on the propaganda front: denying his presidency legitmiacy from jump street—just as the Republicans effectively did with Obama, only with us it is for VALID REASONS.
Voter suppression laws tipped the scales for Trump
The Electoral College must rise to the occassion and correct this fatal mistake of Trump's victory—before we abolish the Electoral College itself and overturn the voter suppression laws, to assure that this never happens again.
Electoral Nullification idea gains ground
An encouraging account on International Business Times is entitled: "Can Hillary Clinton Still Win? Electoral College To Vote In December After Candidate Wins Popular Vote." It notes the petition online at Change.org, which ia already above 3 million signatures.
The idea is enthusiastically plugged on Huffington Post, under the title "The Electoral College Was Designed to Prevent Trump. You Can Make This Happen." States wrtier Douglas Anthony Cooper:
Daily News Bin also runs a piece promoting the idea. Politico back in August reported that: "Even red-state Republicans in the Electoral College are uncomfortable with the man they’ll have to support." We must urgently appeal to their conscience.
NBC reported in 2007 that Maryland was actually drawing up a plan to free electors to give their votes for president to the winner of the national popular vote. This idea is not as radical as it wounds.
See also the page on the 2016 elections on the National Archives' Electoral College website.
Do not normalize Trumpism!
Masha Gessen writes eloquently in New York Review of Books about how the conciliatory talk from Obama and other Democratic leaders now of the need for "good faith" in Trump is is dangerously "treating him as a 'normal' politician" and "close[s] off alternative responses to his minority victory."
Shaun King writes in the Daily News: "No, we should not wait and see what a Trump administration does. We should organize our resistance right now."
He concludes: "We can't wait until he does those things before we act against him. We must outsmart and out-organize his team. I implore you to ignore anybody saying anything other than that." We heartily agree, although the question of how to outsmart and out-organize them is a very tricky one…
Don’t believe the ‘moderate’ facism hype
The Independent perhaps unwittingly plays into the perception of a new "moderate" Trump, listing "Nine times Donald Trump has already betrayed the US voters who put their faith in him." One of them is building the Mexico border wall, wth Newt Gingrich quoted saying: "He'll spend a lot of time controlling the border. He may not spend very much time trying to get Mexico to pay for it, but it was a great campaign device."
Please don't fall for this. This is a calculated tilt to the center in rhetoric to weaken resistace at this critical moment. His "100 days" document explicitly calls for appropriations to build the wall.
Pressure grows for Electoral Nullification
The idea does seem to be gaining ground. Politico just reported that two Democratic members of the Electoral College have issued a call for their Republican colleagues to refuse to seat Trump. P. Bret Chiafalo of Washington state and Micheal Baca of Colorado are appealing to “Moral Electors,” in an effort to persuade 37 Republicans to dump Trump —just enough to block his election and leave the final decision to the House of Representatives.
Said Chiafalo: "This is a long shot. It's a Hail Mary. However, I do see situations…when we've already had two or three Republican electors state publicly they didn’t want to vote for Trump. How many of them have real issues with Trump in private?"
Politico reported in October that Virginia elector Erich Reimer broached dumping Trump after the pussy-grabbing revelations. He said: "If the Electoral College were free to be a more deliberative body, his troubling character would be a prime and disqualifying concern in considering who to vote for."
A Huffington Post commentary points out that the electoral college was designed in part "to prevent a person unfit to govern from attaining office," as snopes.com puts it.
The National Archives page on the Electoral College informs us: "If no candidate receives a majority of Electoral votes, the House of Representatives elects the President from the 3 Presidential candidates who received the most Electoral votes."
Now, the idea of it going to the House is not comforting. But even the worst Republican nimrod they could pick—say, Pence—would lack both Trump's charismatic appeal and dictatorial ambitions.
‘Hamilton Electors’ make The Atlantic
A profile in The Atlantic makes clear that Baca and Chiafalo are not pushing for Republican electors to all switch their allegiance to Clinton, but are offering to switch their own votes to a moderate Republican—a "compromise candidate"—if GOP electors will agree to do likewise. They are calling themselves the Hamilton Electors, in a nod to Alexander Hamilton’s explanation of the Electoral College's necessity.
Can America survive President Donald Trump?
Thus asks Eric Zorn in the Chicago Tribune.
Yeah, yeah. But why, then, do you write "when Donald Trump is sworn into office," Eric? This is the moment for urgent pressure on the Republican electors not to seat him.
Hamilton invoked in support of electoral nullification
Paul Abrams has a commentary on HuffPo, "Not Over Yet: Russian Involvement Confirmed, Electoral College Should Deny Trump The Presidency." He quotes Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist Papers boasting of the safeguard against chaos provided by the Electoral College:
While saying that we "should not recommend lightly" that the electors act against the will of their voters, Abrams himself concludes:
In another good sign that the idea is gaining currency, CBS runs a commentary entitled: "Amid Electoral College debate, will some electors go rogue?" It deliciously recalls that Trump himself denounced the Electoral College as a "disaster for democracy" four years ago, but today hails it as "actually genius," now that its machinery has made him president-elect! Let's hold him at his word from four years ago that the popular vote should be respected!
A group called Hamilton Electors has been launched to promote the idea. It also quotes Hamilton from the Federalist Papers: "The process of [the Electoral College] affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications."
Fuckin' A, Alexander.
Wikipedia happily provides a "List of United States presidential electors, 2016." Can they be pressured—legally, respectfully and politely?
Hillary Clinton's lead in the popular vote has now widened to a million, making her margin bigger than the winning margins for John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. (The Nation)
National Review is meanwhile prominently featuring screeds in defense of the Electoral College. One imagines they would be dissing it as a tool of the elites if the results had been otherwise. Let's show 'em what that Electoral College is really for, Hamilton-style! Go argue with Alex, National Review!
Finally, the Washington Post notes that Breitbart is resorting to "bizarre math" (basically, dropping California from the totals on the basis that real Americans are in the "heartland," or something) to propagate the lie "that Trump won the REAL popular vote."
Electoral Nullification campaign starting to have an impact
The Arizona Republic reports Nov. 17: "Arizona presidential electors report flood of pleas to reject Donald Trump."
Yet several of the e-mails are quoted, and all are very police, appealing to the electors' patriotism and conscience.
Experts urge Clinton campaign to challenge election results
Hillary Clinton is being urged by a group of prominent computer scientists and election lawyers to call for a recount in three swing states won by Donald Trump, New York magazine reports. The group—which includes voting-rights attorney John Bonifaz and J. Alex Halderman, director of the Center for Computer Security and Society—believes they've found persuasive evidence that results in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania may have been manipulated or hacked. The group is so far not speaking on the record about their findings and is focused on lobbying the Clinton team in private.
Call for an audit and recount of the vote
A Huffington Post write-up, "Data Scientists Encourage Hillary Clinton To Challenge Election Results," includes a reader poll (with the results supposedly sent to the Clinton campaign) on whether an audit and recount should be demanded.
Pressure grows for audit of election results
Two respected statisticians have called for a recount of some votes cast in the US election to rule out the possibility that the outcome was artificially manipulated. MIT cryptographer Ron Rivest and Berkeley statistician Philip Stark say votes should be audited in a small number of jurisdictions in battleground states to check the veracity of the overall result which handed Trump the victory. In a column for USA Today, they say some of the crucial swing states had little means of defending against attacks, and that relatively few successful hacks could have been enough to change the outcome of the election. "The national results could be tipped by manipulating the vote count in a relatively small number of jurisdictions—a few dozen spread across a few key states," they write. (The Independent)
Bill Weinberg: electors must dump Donald Trump!
Yours Truly makes the case in The Villager for urgent pressure on the electors to refuse to seat Donald Trump. The clock is ticking. We have until Dec. 19 to act. And the future of the country — indeed, the world — depends on it.
Jill Stein rises to the occassion: giving credit where it’s due
Green Party candidate Jill Stein has crtainly played a problematic role in the election, even asserting that Clinton was more dangerous than Trump. But now she does seem to be rising to the occassion—launching a campaign for a recount in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. As a candidate, she has standing to demand the recount—so she is effectively fighting Clinton's battle for her. But these states apparently have filing fees of up to a million dollars. An online donation drive has already raised enough for two of these states, and they were working on the third, Michigan. Wisconsin State Journal reports that "State officials are readying for an unprecedented potential recount." CNN has given the effort some coverage.
Might we actually be building up some momentum here?
Clinton camp joins recount effort
CNN brings us the welcome news that Hillary Clinton's campaign has announced that it will take part in efforts to push for recounts in key states. Trump of course dismissed the recount and said that "the election is over." It is imperative that we prove him wrong. He also had some choice words for Jill Stein, and it is certainly nice to see a falling out between these erstwhile de facto allies.
Dems half-hearted in recount effort
A maddeningly dead-on piece in HuffPo by the above-cited Paul Abrams argues: "Dems Inaction Over 2 Million Vote Victory Shows Why They Lose." He urges: "Consider what would be happening if Donald Trump (or any Republican for that matter) had won the popular vote by two million votes but lost the electoral college." Yet the Clinton team has joined the recount effort in the most half-hearted and perfunctory way.
It recalls the line from Yeats: "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity."
Daily Kos meanwhile notes that the Greens have pulled something of a bait-and-switch in their fund-raising effort: anything raised above what's needed for recount, or all funds if they fail to reach goals needed for recount, will go to their party-building activities.
Neither the Dems nor the Greens are covering themselves in glory here, to say the least. But what can we do but support this effort anyway? The situation is far too desperate not to.
Jill Stein drops Pennsylvania recount
NPR reports that Jill Stein has withdrawn the recount petition in Pennsylvania, ostensibly because of a failure to raise the million-dollar bond. She tweeted: "How odd is it that we must jump through bureaucratic hoops and raise millions of dollars so we can trust our election results?" Yeah well, we want to know what is now going to happen to all the money you raised for this effort, Jill.
Meanwhile, Trump supporters have filed legal challenges in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin seeking to prevent the recounts in those states. Ominously, their complaint states: "espite being no more than a blip on the electoral radar, Stein has now commandeered Pennsylvania's electoral process, with an eye toward doing the same to the Electoral College." (Jurist)
White House ethics counsel call on electors not to seat Trump
OK, we are gaining momentum. This is good. From ThinkProgress:
Perhaps more meaningful in our celebraity-driven culture is that singer Ani DiFranco has also weighed in for the idea. She writes on HuffPo: "President Trump Isn’t A Done Deal. Electors Should Vote For Clinton On Dec. 19."
HuffPo meanwhile has an ironic laugh at Fox News hosts saying it's "disgraceful" that protesters would seek to "delegitimize" the incoming president—when the network took precisely that attitude toward Obama. Even last year, host Sean Hannity said of Obama, "Not my president."
Trump panicked by effort to head off his inauguration?
His absurd claims, with no evidence, that he would have won the popular vote if not for "millions of people" voting illegally (NYT, Nov. 27) certainly suggest that. The actual popular vote gap has now surged past 2.2 million—making Trump the least popular victor since John Quincy Adams in 1824. (Inquistr)
Lawrence Lessig, a professor at Harvard Law School and the author of Republic, Lost: Version 2.0, has an opinion piece in the Washington Post: "The Constitution lets the electoral college choose the winner. They should choose Clinton."
Talking Points Memo reports that Texas GOP elector Art Sisneros wrote in a blog post Nov. 26 that he has decided to step down rather than either vote for Trump or become a "faithless elector."
Hamilton Electors now number seven
The Guardian reports that seven have now joined the "Hamilton Electors" group that pledges to support an unnamed "alternative" Republican candidate. The problem is, they all seem to be Democrats. The report does not indicate that a single Republican elector is on board.
First Republican elector to dump Trump
Christopher Suprun, a Republican elector in Texas (and veteran 9-11 first responder) has an op-ed in the New York Times today, "Why I Will Not Cast My Electoral Vote for Donald Trump." He writes: "I believe electors should unify behind a Republican alternative, an honorable and qualified man or woman such as Gov. John Kasich of Ohio. I pray my fellow electors will do their job and join with me in discovering who that person should be."
Politico reports that the Hamilton Electors group has briefed the Clinton team on their initiative, although they have received no commitment of support.
“Compromise of 2016” to keep Trump out of office
Historian Robert McElvaine has a piece on HuffPo advocating for the "Compromise of 2016" under the headline: "Hillary Can Be a Hero by Saving America from Trump."
The Americans for the XII Amendment website has a list of daily actions you can take to help prevent Trump from being seated. But the clock is ticking… We are down to 10 days now.
Robert Reich weighs in for electoral nullification
He writes on Facebook:
Is there hope for Electoral Nullification?
]The above-cited Harvard law professor Larry Lessig is reported to have said that 20 Republican elector are considering flipping to vote against Trump—more than half the 38 needed to bar him from taking office. "Obviously, whether an elector ultimately votes his or her conscience will depend in part upon whether there are enough doing the same. We now believe there are more than half the number needed to change the result seriously considering making that vote," Lessig told Politico.
Some 30 electors (all Democrats) have signed on to an open letter demand for an intelligence briefing over Russian meddling in the election before they cast their votes. These include supporters includes New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, as well as members California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Maryland, Oregon, Washington and Virginia. (Daily News)
The top two Republicans in Congress—Sen. Mitch McConnell and House speaker Paul D. Ryan—now support investigations into possible Russian meddling in the election. (NYT)
I think it's a pretty reasonable demand that Trump not be seated while this investigation is pending. AskTheElectors website has collected nearly 200,000 citizen letters to the electors urging them to follow their consciences and dump Trump. See also their Letter to Electors.
Henry Wallace on American fascism
Robert Reich's Quote of the Week:
FDR on American fascism
Another relevant quote…
Appeals court: removing electors may be unconstitutional
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a call by Colorado Democratic electors Polly Baca and Robert Nemanich' to immediately halt the enforcement of state law requiring them to cast their votes for Hillary Clitnon, concluding the electors failed to lodge a compelling constitutional argument. But they agreed one probably exists—and pointed to a potential legal argument that could work. In their ruling, the judges said any attempt by Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams to remove electors "after voting has begun" would be "unlikely in light of the text of the Twelfth Amendment." (Politico, Dec. 17)
Electoral College betrays republic
The vote is in, and only six electors nationwide went "faithless." Texas electors cast 36 votes for Trump, one for Kasich (the above-mentioned Chris Suprun), and one for Ron Paul. Another Texas elector, named as Art Sisneros, chose to resign rather than vote for Trump. Ironically, more Democratic electors dumped Hillary. In Washington state, four of the 12 electors refused to vote for Clinton in a moral appeal to their Republican counterparts. Instead, they cast votes for Colin Powell and Faith Spotted Eagle, a Native American tribal leader who has led opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline. (Texas Tribune, The HIll, Dallas News, NYT)
Not that it matters anymore, but one more particularly relevant Hamilton quote in defense of the Electoral College. From Federalist Papers No. 68:
We are on a 32-day countdown to the inauguration. Now what?
Congress certifies Electoral College vote
Big ups to Barbara Lee, Sheila Jackson Lee, Raul Grijalva and a handful of House Democrats for raising objections. But—as predicted—not one Senator would provide the needed signature to hold up the certification. Big ups also to three protesters from the group Democracy Spring who disrupted the proceedings and were forcibly removed from the chamber. Shame, shame, shame on Joe Biden for shutting everyone up and admonishing that "It's over." (Morning Consult, ABC, Jan. 6)
Progressive call for constitutional convention
Writing in Jurist, Roy Ulrich of UC Berkeley issued "A Progressive Call for a Constitutional Convention," elminating the Electoral College and instating direct popular election of presidents. As tempting as the idea is (and it is very tempting), I fear opening the proverbial floodgates. This could be exploited by our enemies to basically repeal the Bill of Rights (except the Second Amendment, natch). The Koch Brothers are currently bankrolling a right-wing push for a con-con…
Can Trump presidency be ‘annulled’?
It is uncharted territory from a constitutional standpoint, but no less a personage than Robert Reich is calling for that in Newsweek.
Of course this is contingent on the results of the Mueller investigation.
SCOTUS: states can restrict electoral college voters
Well, here we are, almost four years later and facing the very good possibility of another electoral debacle, and we get this very dangerous unanimous decision from the Supremes. From Jurist, July 7: