protestor carries sign challenging electoral college

Electoral College Vote May Add To 2016 Election Drama

The Electoral College vote, scheduled for December 19, may add another layer of drama to an already eventful 2016 election. A group calling themselves the Hamilton Electors are seeking electors willing to cast a vote for someone other than Donald Trump, even if those electors’ state voted in favor of the President-elect. The Electoral College is the final hurdle a candidate must clear on the path to the White House.

Who are the electors? According to the National Archives and Records Administration’s page on the U. S. Electoral College, electors are individuals chosen at the state level by the respective political parties. On election day, the voters choose the electors based on the presidential election votes. This excludes Nebraska and Maine, which each use a proportional system based on Congressional districts.

The National Association of Secretaries of State has also compiled a list of laws that affect who may become an elector for the Electoral College vote. Many states have varying laws that restrict the selection of electors. Alaska, for instance, restricts senators, representatives, or anyone holding an office of trust or profit under the United States from voting in the Electoral College vote.

Map showing electoral college results for the 2016 presidential election
[Image by karenfoleyphotography/Shutterstock]

Since electors are chosen by the political parties, and voters send those electors based on who they chose as a presidential candidate, it should follow that except for Maine and Nebraska, the electors should be political supporters of the candidate who won that state. The Hamilton Electors are arguing that very specific set of circumstances disqualify Donald Trump, and are urging electors to switch their votes. The group cites Alexander Hamilton writing in the Federalist Papers, and arguing that the Electoral College gives moral certainty that unqualified people will not hold the office.

The Hamilton Electors website lists specific reasons that they believe electors should cast votes against Donald Trump. The first is that Trump is a clear and present danger to the security of the United States, and underlining this the group states that the election was compromised by foreign interests, including Russia. The second reason is speculative, stating that Trump may be impeached by a Republican Congress, listing financial conflicts of interest and other claims about Trump’s economic activities. The third reason listed is that Trump is a demagogue that will do permanent damage to the Bill of Rights through incitement of masses and unconstitutional acts. As of December 1, 2016, the Hamilton Electors claim that they have seven potential electors willing to change their votes.

The first charge is the one most likely to stand as a valid reason to choose someone other than Donald Trump. An elector would need to be convinced that Donald Trump was under the influence of a foreign power. Such a change in vote based on that reason would likely require a significant piece of evidence of such influence to make the vote stand above political motivation. All of that means that a dedicated member of a political party, and likely a very loyal one, would need to stumble across a probably highly classified document demonstrating that Donald Trump is somehow under Russian influence. If such evidence existed, the Electoral College vote would probably be thrown into turmoil.

A joint session of Congress tallies the Electoral College vote
A joint session of Congress tallies the Electoral College vote. [Image by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]

Hamilton Electors also point out that electors are not bound to vote in a specific way in the Electoral College. This is a true statement in the sense that the Constitution makes no such provision. It is also true that some states do have penalties for electors who do not represent the will of the majority of the state in the Electoral College vote. The National Archives and Records Administration elaborates on this issue on their website.

“There is no Constitutional provision or Federal law that requires Electors to vote according to the results of the popular vote in their states. Some states, however, require Electors to cast their votes according to the popular vote. These pledges fall into two categories—Electors bound by state law and those bound by pledges to political parties.”

However, following that information, the website adds that throughout American history, 99 percent of electors vote for the candidates to whom they are pledged in the electoral college. In theory, the Hamilton Electors could change the outcome of the election by getting 37 electors to switch their vote in the Electoral College. In reality, that outcome is not likely.

[Featured Image by Mark Makela/Getty Images]

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