A Denver district court judge in Colorado ruled that state electors must follow Colorado law and vote for the the Colorado presidential election winner. On November 8, Colorado voters chose Hillary Clinton, but some electors were hoping to cast their ballot for someone else as a strategic move to try and throw the decision into the House of Representatives. Their reasoning for this is if enough electors vote for someone other than Hillary Clinton or Trump and if enough electors overall vote for a third party, it will force the House of Representatives to make that choice. And that choice is preferably Clinton.
Colorado has a state law that requires its members of the Electoral College to cast their ballots for the winner. Ruling judge Elizabeth Starrs gave the Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams authority to replace any elector who violates the law.
The Denver Post reports that the “Hamilton Electors” movement is an effort to keep Donald Trump from becoming president, a move that Clinton voters across the nation have latched onto in the hopes that it can succeed. With the ruling from Judge Starrs, it has become more of a pipe dream than a reality, effectively eliminating Colorado from the process.
Prior to this, U.S. District Judge Wiley Daniel, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1995, had also ruled against the faithless electors, saying that not voting for the state’s popular vote winner “would undermine the electoral process.” The faithless electors are now considering trying to get an emergency appeal before they are to meet on December 19.
The ruling, however, is a good thing, and not because I wanted Trump. I didn’t. But I see it as a good thing, nonetheless.
Why? Look at the long-term and not the short-term implications.
If the electors were allowed to ignore the state law that requires electors to cast their ballots for the popular vote winner, it could affect future national elections and could also have a trickle-down effect in the state primary process and continue to undermine the will of voters. Granted, the state primaries are a different animal altogether, but forcing national electors to follow the popular vote sets a precedent for the primaries, and not just in Colorado.
While primaries are the responsibility of the state and do not fall under federal jurisdiction, party leaders could theoretically look to federal regulations to model future party primary rules.
In Nevada, where Senator Bernie Sanders won the second round of caucuses, the state party changed the rules just prior to the state convention. Those rule and procedural changes ultimately harmed Sanders and benefited Hillary Clinton. It was an exercise in outrage, as statewide delegates fought for the right have their voices heard to little avail.
In Washington state, superdelegates declared that they would cast their votes for Clinton, despite the fact that Bernie Sanders had won the state with more than 72 percent of the vote. Washington had 17 superdelegates, some of which included Clinton supporters like Governor Jay Inslee and U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen. In New Hampshire, Bernie won a landslide victory, yet Clinton received the same number of delegates to the national convention as Bernie. In just about every state where Bernie won, superdelegates shunned the popular vote and instead cast their votes for Hillary Clinton.
Bernie never had a chance under those circumstances. Had the superdelegates been legally compelled to follow the will of the voters, the primary race would have been much tighter, and Bernie could have come out of the convention with the nomination.
Instead, superdelegates arrogantly ignored primary voters and caucus-goers and installed Clinton as the nominee, an act that eventually led to voter disillusionment, apathy, and a Donald Trump President-elect.
In May, Maine voters delivered a scathing reprimand against the Democratic establishment by voting to strip superdelegates of power. The Chicago Tribune reports that the proposal would require the state party to consider the will of voters and send a delegation to the national convention that reflects the election results. In other words, the superdelegates in the 2020 Maine primaries, superdelegates won’t have the same freedom to defy voters as they did in 2016.
In Texas, Republican elector Christopher Suprun declared publicly that he would not cast his Electoral College vote for Trump. In an op-ed published in the New York Times, the paramedic and 9/11 response team member declared Trump unfit for the office of president. Texas has no laws against faithless electors as does Colorado. Suprun never says who he will ultimately cast his ballot for, but he suggests Ohio Governor John Kasich as a good alternative. As an elector, he says it is his duty to “defend my country and Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
His actions, though, could have far-reaching consequences in future elections because it ignores the larger will of voters who are expecting Trump to be inaugurated in January.
So, how does the Colorado ruling apply to Democratic primary races? It shows a distinct pattern of undermining the will of voters in individual states. We cannot hold our Democratic superdelegates to one standard while holding national delegates to another. The people of the United States value democracy, and it appears that the Hamilton Electors are trying to leverage the Electoral College the same way the superdelegates undermined the rank and file voters of the Democratic Party.
And so, as much as I am not looking forward to Donald Trump as president, the Colorado ruling against the Hamilton Electors could actually help candidates in future elections get the support and representation they deserve.
[Featured Image by Evan Vucci /AP Images]