Donald Trump could see more faithless electors break their pledge to vote for him than any previous president, if attempts to derail his election succeed. Several electors have already said they will not vote for Trump when they meet on December 19.
There are 538 electors who officially choose the next president but only 37 Republican electors would have to change their votes to stop Trump becoming president, The Telegraph reports. There are conflicting reports about the number of electors who will become “faithless” but at least a few have said they will not vote for Trump.
It is legal in nearly half the states for electors to vote against the popular vote results in their state. However, 29 states have laws that would punish members of the electoral college who breach their pledge. Electors have voted against their pledges before, most notably in the disputed 1876 election.
So-called “Hamilton electors” could push a third candidate for the White House other than Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton. The suggestion, made by veteran political commentator Keith Olbermann among others, is for Democratic electors to form an alliance with moderate Republican electors and put a more centrist Republican in the Oval Office.
It is unlikely that enough Republican electors will vote against Trump to change the outcome of the election but it is possible many will vote their conscience, according to NPR. In modern elections, the electoral college members have always voted for the winner of the popular vote in their state. A handful of electors have broken their pledges but they made no impact on the final result.
Several factors make the electoral college meeting on December 19 different. Hillary Clinton’s huge win in the national popular vote, now around 2.8 million votes, has led to criticism of a system that allows a minority of voters to choose the president. The electoral college is very unlikely to make Clinton president, according to The Daily Beast.
Reports of Russian interference in the presidential election have also worried voters and some electors. The CIA and FBI have both concluded that Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee with the intention of helping Donald Trump win the White House. This has led some to cast Trump’s win as illegitimate or at least dubious.
Some electors have asked for a briefing on Russian involvement in the election before they vote, while others have suggested that the electors could delay their vote until the full extent of Donald Trump’s ties with Russia, if any, are explained.
Donald Trump may also be in breach of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause if he does not divest himself of his business interests by his inauguration on January 20. The Emoluments Clause forbids presidents from personally profiting from foreign powers while in office. Some electors are concerned about Trump’s financial interests abroad. Since Trump has not released his tax returns, it is impossible to know to what extent Trump’s businesses might benefit from his policies.
The electors who will ratify the election are under unprecedented pressure to stop Trump becoming president or at least make some form of protest. For the first time in living memory, several members of the electoral college have openly said they will not vote for the candidate they are pledged to. Others are actively trying to get their colleagues to break their pledges.
The most likely outcome of the Electoral College meeting will be the election of Donald Trump but Trump could lose more electors than any winning president in recent history. A number of faithless electors are guaranteed to vote against Trump on December 19. Republican electors are unlikely to change the outcome of the election but it is possible that the electoral college will see the highest number of faithless electors since 1876.
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