Will the Electoral College throw the presidential election into chaos … or is this just another post-election fantasy for the Left? Lawrence Lessig set up a legal fund to woo “faithless electors” away from Donald Trump, and announced yesterday that’s he’s heard from several who are “seriously considering” their options for next week’s vote:
Lessig’s anti-Trump group, “Electors Trust,” has been offering pro bono legal counsel to Republican presidential electors considering ditching Trump and has been acting as a clearinghouse for electors to privately communicate their intentions.
“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 said.
Lessig’s claims contradict the assertions of Republican National Committee sources who report that a GOP whip operation intended to ensure Republican electors remain loyal to Trump found only one elector — Chris Suprun of Texas — would defy Trump.
Politico notes that Lessig didn’t bother to offer any evidence of this claim, which would make sense even if it were true. Only Suprun has gone public; anyone else would be contacting Lessig’s group on the QT. Many of them would face legal consequences for defying the voters in their states, so they won’t go public blithely.
On the other hand, this is a rather extraordinary claim, especially given Lessig’s ties to Barack Obama. Would three dozen electors show up on Lessig’s doorstep to betray the GOP — electors chosen by party officials for their loyalty, and who presumably have something to lose by betraying it? That seems a little unlikely — not impossible, but unlikely — and it cuts against the report from Politico yesterday about the results from the GOP’s standard Electoral College whip operation.
The Hill goes farther in pouring cold water on the claim. While they’re getting e-mails and messages from activists, Republican electors say that their Democratic counterparts have actually remained rather quiet:
Virtually all Republican electors reached by The Hill said they will vote enthusiastically for Trump.
“I’m voting how the people of Florida have told me to vote,” said Brian Ballard, a Florida elector who raised money for Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio during the GOP primary. “I don’t know anyone who isn’t. I appreciate people using First Amendment rights to reach out and try to convince me otherwise, but I’m obligated to support Trump because he won Florida.[“] …
While most electors say that they’re not hearing much from the Democratic delegates who are purportedly campaigning to get GOP electors on board, they’re still being flooded with letters, emails and phone calls from private citizens across the country urging them to abandon Trump.
Funny about that, eh? Jonathan Easley and Ben Kamisar write that the Democratic electors who are publicly calling for their Republican counterparts to reconsider their votes have “little appetite” for a Republican alternative for whom they’d cast their own votes. That leaves Republican electors with having a choice of putting the White House in control of the GOP, or handing it off to the Democrats. That’s not exactly a tough choice.
Even if they abstain, what’s the end game? The election would go to the House of Representatives, where Republicans have a wide majority in the state delegations (32-15, and three evenly split in this session of Congress). Trump would win easily in this scenario, as House members would have to go back to their districts to explain why they ignored the election results to put someone else in the White House. That’s especially true considering that the House can only elect from the top three Electoral College vote winners, according to the 12th Amendment — which would be Trump, Hillary Clinton, and whomever one or more faithless electors choose in their balloting, primarily promoted by Democrats.
As I write in my column for The Week, this is yet another ludicrous liberal fantasy — and another way in which the party that scolded Donald Trump for shaking confidence in American elections wants to overturn the one they just lost:
But Trump opponents have seized on the Electoral College as a last-gasp measure to change the outcome of the election. Democrats want electors from states Trump won to change their votes, arguing that voters elected them to exercise their judgment. Clinton campaign chair John Podesta demanded intelligence briefings for electors on the Russian hacking threat — the same one they knew about in October when scolding Trump for approaching results with due caution. “Electors have a solemn responsibility under the Constitution,” Podesta wrote, “and we support their efforts to have their questions addressed.”
Forget the practical issue that any briefing of significance would require 538 electors to get security clearances in the space of a week. Electors do have a “solemn responsibility under the Constitution,” but it’s not to act as a shadow Congress or a substitute for the voters they represent. They have one job, and one job only: to fulfill in person the results of the presidential election in each of their states. They have no other authority or jurisdiction in the Constitution or by judicial precedent. …
The desperate liberal Electoral College project will fail anyway. Thirty-nine electors demanded the briefing, presumably to justify voting against Trump, but 38 of them are bound to Hillary Clinton already. The one Republican, Chris Suprun of Texas, had already announced his intention to vote for someone other than Trump or Clinton. Trump has a 35-elector edge even without Suprun, and no other Republican electors seem interested in throwing the election to the House of Representatives, or Clinton either.
For better or worse, voters put Donald Trump in the White House. Congress can and should investigate Russian efforts to hack into political organizations and push the executive branch to do a better job in combating such intrusions and attempts at influencing American politics. That will take a realistic approach to governance, for which the incoming Trump administration must prove itself ready to provide. The absurd attempts to overturn the election results demonstrate why Democrats aren’t being given that opportunity — at practically every level of government.
By the way, I’m old enough to remember when progressives warned that Republicans would try to steal the presidency by throwing the election to the House. In April, such an outcome was “anti-democratic.” I assume the author simply erred in not capitalizing the ‘D’ in his argument.
Update: Fixed two grammatical errors.