Will electors try to deny Trump the presidency? Call me skeptical.

REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
The likelihood is that Donald Trump will receive at least the 270 electoral votes necessary to become president.

The presidential electors, the group of 538 who are authorized by the Constitution (as evolved) to cast the final vote in the presidential election process, are scheduled to meet on Monday – not in one big group but in their respective states – to cast those votes. The likelihood is that Donald Trump will receive at least the 270 electoral votes necessary.

But, as I wrote last week, there is an effort afoot to get at least 37 electors, who are supposed to vote for Trump according to the result of the popular vote in their states, to vote for someone else.

So far, only one Republican elector, Texan Christopher Suprun, has publicly declared that he will vote for someone other than Trump. Efforts have continued behind the scenes to recruit more. And a high-powered legal team has assembled to help with the legal arguments that electors – even from states that have laws binding the electors to follow the result of the popular vote in their states – have a constitutional right to vote for someone else if they believe Trump is not qualified or fit to be president.

On Wednesday the leader of that legal team, Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig, told the Independent that at least 20 electors have agreed to vote for someone other than Trump, and Lessig believes that enough others are considering the idea to get the total up to 30.

Even if 30 is the ultimate number, that would leave Trump with enough electoral votes to win. Lessig’s final statement on the numbers was that if the number of defectors got over 30 it would create “a very interesting dynamic,” which I can only assume means that he believes if the number gets close to the 37 necessary to prevent an Electoral College majority for Trump, some more, who have not been willing to join the defectors, will give it a rethink.

That could quite easily be wishful thinking on Lessig’s part. It rests on the assumption that many electors would be willing to vote against their state’s result, but only if they know it will be effective in blocking Trump from the presidency.

Also, as I wrote last week, even if Trump fell below 270, if the “faithless electors” did not all switch their support to Hillary Clinton, the effect would be throw the election into the U.S. House of Representatives, which is controlled by Republicans. So even then, the likeliest outcome would be the election of Trump, who is, after all, the Republican nominee. It’s possible to conjure a scenario under which anti-Trump House Republicans make common cause with Democrats in large enough numbers to throw the presidency to someone else, but as of now I’m extremely skeptical.

Here’s a video of a lot of TV and movie stars urging the electors to vote their consciences.

Also, 68 presidential electors from 17 states signed a letter asking the director of national intelligence to brief the electors on why the U.S. inelligence community believes Russia was behind cyberattacks intended to influence the election. But the agency has declined to do that until Pres. Obama completes the review of the matter, which will happen after the electors have voted.

The Electoral College system, by the way, is a ridiculous contraption and those who think it is a brilliant gift of the Framers should at least acknowledge that the way it works now has almost nothing in common with anything the Framers wanted, expected or intended.

You can also learn about all our free newsletter options.

Comments (20)

  1. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 12/15/2016 - 01:50 pm.

    Its Hard:

    For folks to do as our forefathers: “mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” To do what is right. It is much easier to, do as you are told, than to exercise that good judgment that we have been empowered to. Interesting: “They have not made the appointment of the President to depend on any preexisting bodies of men, who might be tampered with beforehand to prostitute their votes” Hamilton speaks directly to tampering, perhaps not the popular vote, but makes a similar note to the EC. When we have basically conclusive evidence that the recent election was tampered by a foreign government, and the increasing appearance of our next president as being complicit in that election tampering! Time for the once in a lifetime tough decision.

  2. Submitted by joe smith on 12/15/2016 - 01:52 pm.

    Democrats led by Hillary had a cow

    when Trump said he would wait to see what the results were before he would accept the results of the voters. Eric Black and others said that was un-American. Now I see where the Jill Stein led recount in Wisconsin showed Trump picked up 135 more votes and there was more votes than registered voters in heavily Democratic districts in Detroit. Thankfully (for liberals) a Federal Judge shut down the Michigan recount before more embarrassing facts came from the Detroit area. Trump won over 300 electoral votes and 30 states. Time for folks on the left to accept the fact that Trump won and will be President… Please follow the advice you were giving Trump a few months back, respect the results of the election! Hypocrites have never done well with regular folks, you know, the ones clinging to their guns and God.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 12/15/2016 - 03:09 pm.

      As for Detroit–Detroit had a 2 sheet ballot with same sort of optical ballot readers we have here. Problems in balancing the vote arose because the machines had to be manually reset for one or two sheets. Some machines were never set for a two-sheet ballot so if a voter inserted their 2 legitimate ballot sheets, it registered as two voters having voted. If a voter only inserted one of the two ballot sheets because the other ballot sheet was a bunch of issues/positions they didn’t care about, and the machine was set for one sheet it was OK, but if the machine hsd been set for 2 sheets, the next sheet inserted by the next voter would have completed the apparent vote. And if a poll-worker tried to keep up between one or two sheets inserted, the interruptions and managed chaos of the voting site sort of guaranteed that the setting of the machine would be off between voters.

      Let that be a lesson for us.

    • Submitted by Craig Johnson on 12/15/2016 - 03:41 pm.

      You are comparing Apples to Orangutans

      Trump was declairing one of his many statements without consideration to reality. Examine his statements that he won the Electoral College by a landslide – well he hasn’t on two counts first it was not a landslide, his margin was way down the list, and second he has not won the EC – they have not yet voted. Add to that he lost the popular vote by over 2,500,000.

      The issues have never been so compelling – the electoral college will certainly find its constitution responsibilities be recanted – no small task – if they do not address the reality of the unfitness of Trump to fulfill the responsibilities of the the office.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 12/15/2016 - 03:43 pm.

      Trump will probably ‘win’

      in the sense of being elected President by the Electors, even though that is contrary to the wishes of the greatest number of voters, who voted for Clinton. So he is really going against the ‘results of the voters’, which (contrary to the Electors’ likely outcome) were in favor of Clinton.

    • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 12/15/2016 - 05:14 pm.

      The system is rigged..

      Can you imagine what would be our present circumstances if the results were reversed: a Trump 2.5 million edge in the popular vote and a significant electoral college loss. The Trumpians would be out in the streets waving their ARs and shooting in the sky.

      Despite the strawman rantings from the right, no leaders or numbers of any significance from the left has ranted about a “rigged system”.

      Oh, and anyone claiming a Trump landslide in these circumstances needs to get a grip a reality.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 12/16/2016 - 09:22 am.

      The Democratic Cow

      I’m not sure what your point is. The recount efforts were spurred by a non-Democratic Party candidate. The Clinton campaign did not push it.

      Yes, Donald won. Let’s afford him the same respect and deference that the Republicans afforded President Obama.

      “Hypocrites have never done well with regular folks, you know, the ones clinging to their guns and God.” So authoritarian liars who coddle bigots and racists are their preferred candidates? Who knew?

  3. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 12/15/2016 - 02:17 pm.

    Get over it! Give it a rest….

    Personally – I can’t wait to start hearing once again from Mr. Black the evils of the deficit and the great need for even higher taxes now that the GOP is in charge.

  4. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 12/15/2016 - 04:04 pm.

    Also skeptical

    I’m missing the argument Lessig and others have trying to persuade Electors to vote their conscience. I’m in full agreement with Eric that the Electoral provision of the Constitution is one of several that are clearly obsolete and are having consequences probably unintended by the signers of the Constitution. But bad as it is, we’re stuck with it. How does one get from “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors” to saying that the manner in which you have been appointed doesn’t control your vote if that’s the “Manner” of your appointment? Let’s at least call it what it is: an act of patriotic civil disobedience to save one’s country from impending doom and disaster.

    I’d add too that Hillary and her supporters were not running around the country before the election claiming that the system was rigged and the country would know if they did not get elected. Why wssn’t it a fair question to ask candidate Trump if he meant that he would not abide the outcome if he lost? Isn’t there a difference in asking after the election whether it was rigged or, as it looks like it was, interfered with by a foreign power, possibly acting in league with the winning candidate? (Hint: it’s not hypocrisy). Hypocrisy is when you denounce someone else for doing exactly what you do yourself. From what I’ve seen of this country over the last 40 years, regular folks, “the ones clinging to their guns and God” have no problem with hypocrisy. They don’t even know it when it looks at them in the mirror every day.

  5. Submitted by Matt Bowers on 12/15/2016 - 04:04 pm.

    Conservatives know about hypocrisy.

    Conservatives are in no position to lecture anyone about accepting election results. Look at the treatment Obama got after being elected twice–do we really need to catalog birtherism, obstructionism, and outright racism? Do we remember the total denial by Republicans in 2012 that maybe their polls were just a bit off?

    Now, we see Republicans in North Carolina doing everything they can to obliterate the fact that a Democrat was elected governor. Is that acceptance of election results?

    You want to talk about Detroit? Let’s talk about Detroit and voter suppression in North Carolina, in Florida, in Texas, and, yes, in Michigan. And if we are talking about integrity, when is the president-elect going to call for an investigation into Russian meddling and hacking? Not holding my breath for those hearings.

    Yes, there is plenty of hypocrisy out there and much of it comes from conservatives. Remember, the regular folks are watching them too.

  6. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 12/15/2016 - 07:30 pm.

    Please make a choice

    I wonder who liberals want Electors to vote for? Would they prefer Rubio? Cruz? Bush? Will it make them happy? I mean Republicans will still have total control of Washington, DC and most of the states…

    • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 12/16/2016 - 09:01 am.

      Its a rigged system anyway

      How about Bloomberg?

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 12/16/2016 - 09:25 am.

      One possibility

      is that the electors cannot come up with a majority choice, which would throw the election into the House. In that case some sort of political deal to generate the necessary supermajority would spit out a moderate Republican acceptable to enough Democrats to produce a majority.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 12/16/2016 - 01:15 pm.


        If the election were to go to the House, a supermajority would not be necessary. Each state would have one vote, and the winner would be the one with the most votes. The supermajority requirement is for the quorum needed to take such a vote (a member or members from 2/3 of the states).

        • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 12/16/2016 - 02:42 pm.


          All it takes is a committee chair to hold the vote at ransom to lobby for a preferred candidate.
          It might take a supermajority to bring a vote to the floor.

          • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 12/16/2016 - 03:24 pm.

            Well, No

            Under the 12th Amendment, the House chooses “from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President . . .” In other words, a candidate who got no electoral votes is not to be considered by the House.

            • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 12/16/2016 - 09:56 pm.

              Who, not how

              The 12th Amendment concerns who the House can consider; all it says about the procedure is that each state’s representation shall have one vote. Nothing about the voting procedure itself.

              • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 12/18/2016 - 02:21 pm.


                No, but it does say the vote shall be taken “immediately.,” and the choice is to be between the candidates who received the most electoral votes. If enough faithless electors put in their own candidates, one of them could be elected by the House. The House cannot, however, insert its own preferred candidate unless that person received enough electoral votes to put him or her in the running.

    • Submitted by Jon Austin on 12/16/2016 - 11:51 am.

      My choice

      With the exception of Dr. Carson, I’d be in favor of any of the other candidates from the 2016 GOP field. Even Chris Christie, who seems to be a bully, or Ted Cruz, who has a political agenda that intersects very little with my own, or Carly Fiorina who has no experience in government.

      I’ll take it (several) steps further: I’d support amending the Constitution to allow George W. Bush to serve a third term despite the fact that I consider him the worst president of my lifetime and responsible for the greatest foreign policy misstep in modern history. Were he alive, I’d support Richard Nixon despite knowing the depth of his criminality and the stain he left on the presidency. Hell, I’d support Richard Nixon in his current condition.

      Extreme conservatism doesn’t concern me as much as Mr. Trump’s lack of any identifiable political philosophy. Neither does libertarianism or even – shudder – the simple-minded cult of Objectivism. What concerns me over and above all of that is that our next president is going to be a man with no overall political beliefs, a vast ignorance of the way the world works, a demonstrable lack of curiosity or interest in learning.

      That those glaring – and to my mind irrefutable – gaps are married to a personality that is appears to be narcissistic to the point of impairment and that is propelled fundamentally by a con man’s mentality to squeeze his marks with the least application of effort is terrifying.

      And yet Mr. Trump will be our next president so he has my support and my best wishes for his success. Even so, nothing he has done since the election has given me any reason to believe my fears are unfounded. Nothing.

      • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 12/17/2016 - 11:48 am.

        Thank you

        Mr. Austin, thank you for a nice response.

        Mr. Wagner, why Bloomberg? What would be for Republicans in that?
        Mr. Brandon, so who is that moderate Republican who would be acceptable to you?

Leave a Reply