There is an effort underway by the Hamilton Electors to persuade members of the Electoral College bound to Donald Trump to defect and chose an alternative. I support that effort. I do not support Democratic electors defecting from Clinton as a strategy to achieve that outcome. I do not support the movement to legally unbind electors from the obligation to cast their vote for the winner of the popular vote in their state(s).
Why I will cast my Electoral College vote for Hillary Clinton
1. This spring I was democratically and openly elected by CD6 Democrats to cast my electoral ballot for the presidential nominee of the Democratic party, should that nominee win a popular majority in the state of Colorado;
2. The Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, won the majority of the popular vote in the state of Colorado. It is morally questionable and absolutely undemocratic for me to select a Republican I personally think fits the bill and write in a candidate who did not even appear on the ballot in the state of Colorado.
3. While I support the efforts of Hamilton Electors to persuade the Republican members of the Electoral College to change their position and vote against Donald Trump, my casting a vote for any candidate other than Hillary Clinton has absolutely no mathematical effect on Trump’s totals.
4. While the Hamilton movement has been organizing for weeks, as of 12/14/2016, the strategy to morally lure Republicans away from voting for Trump based on Clinton electors defecting and choosing a “moderate Republican alternative” has yielded zero solid commitments from Republican electors (the TX elector already defected before anti-Clinton Hamiltons began organizing). Current news coverage uses equivocations like “rumors are reported,” to describe possible Trump defectors. Most of it simply aggrandizes the phrasing, “people are saying.” I will not vote for a candidate other than Hillary Clinton on the hope that Republican electors will be so moved by my sacrifice that they will change their own vote(s).
5. In most states, electors represent the core of their parties, and are selected by their parties based on this loyalty. These are the people least likely of any of our citizens to take any action contrary to party interest. The Republicans, as a majority, do not view Trump as contrary to party interest. Bargaining away my vote for Clinton on the Neville Chamberlain style hope that this situation changes is not a strategy I chose to pursue. As of 12/19/16, it’s widely understood that Republican electors have been receiving thousands of emails and letters. There remains only one Republican who has declared his vote not-Trump. It’s also reported in the same Washington Post article and elsewhere that the majority of American’s don’t support the Hamilton movement. At what point does the movement to save democracy and the popular vote collide with itself?
6. While I believe that Donald Trump is unfit and unqualified to become president, that argument was made thoroughly and unsuccessfully to Republicans in 2016 during the campaign. To assume that after the election, and now that the Republican party holds the reigns, that the same argument will spontaneously become effective does not strike me as a tactic that will yield success. There are much stronger, newer, arguments to be made based on conflicts of interest and foreign influence. I also look forward to the Hamilton electors pivoting after the Dec. 19 vote to throw their support behind obstruction tactics by Democratic members of Congress.
7. If in fact Trump electors do defect, in any scenario following the Democratic party should be able to maneuver from the absolute strongest position when the House considers the top electoral college vote-getters as alternatives. Subtracting votes from Clinton does not put us in the strongest position. In fact, the most likely ramification in that case would be Trump taking to Twitter to claim that even Democrats don’t support Clinton.
8. A handful of renegade Democratic electors making overtures to the Republican party makes no difference - because our personal willingness to compromise is irrelevant . We are not members of the House of Representatives and therefor have no more or less say in the selection process than the rest of the populous should Trump lose his margin. The focus should stay on Trump and his failings and dangers.
9. Harvard University law professor Lawrence Lessig, who is often cited as an expert on the Electoral College and Constitutional legal strategy and whose opinion on this situation I respect greatly, has stated that he does not support the Democratic defection strategy.
10. Finally, it just doesn’t pass the sniff test that two of the major players in the Washington state “unbind Clinton electors” movement were Clinton detractors even before the election was held and had either already declared that as Democratic electors they wouldn’t vote for her (Santiacum) or were seriously considering not voting for her (Chiafalo). Even if Clinton took Washington state by popular vote. Which she did. Namanich, the lead plaintiff in the unbind the electors case in Colorado stated that even in the general election he “did not want to vote for Clinton,” believing that “it would not make a difference,” (ostensibly whether it was Clinton or Trump. Curious if he still feels that way). So I’m not surprised they’re still not voting for her, nor am I persuaded.*
*Correction - a previous iteration of this article insinuated Chiafalo referred to Clinton as a “criminal.” It was in fact Santiacum who did so.
Why I believe the strategy to legally unbind electors from upholding the results of the popular vote should provoke extreme reservations and be pursued with extreme caution
1. Of course it’s incumbent upon every individual to act as his or her conscience dictates. Republicans are free to exercise their consciences, and I believe that they should do so and defect from Trump. If they do, there will be an army of Democrats ready to pay their fines and represent them legally. The legal volunteers are already in place, and active at The Electors Trust;
2. Given that electors may expect that legal and financial issues will not be a barrier to voting their consciences, legally unbinding them from the results of the popular vote is unnecessary.
3. There is no system in place to ensure bi-partisanship and fair representation if electors are unbound. In fact there is no system in place at all to populate an ostensibly non-partisan Electoral College. The selection system currently is completely partisan and separate, and electors represent their respective parties as chosen during caucuses and primaries.
4. Not only is unbinding unnecessary, it’s dangerous. In Colorado electors are chosen via an open and democratic process. This is unique. Electors are much more typically chosen by their respective parties in closed processes and the position given to party faithful. The power in this case is highly institutionalized and inaccessible;
5. If successful, the legal strategy seeking to abolish laws binding electors to the popular vote poses the very real scenario that the Electoral College will not only remain the deciding body for the office of the president, but a centralized body appointed and populated by a small group of party loyalists and accountable to no one but their party chairs;
6. These same electors, who now have no legal accountability to respect the popular vote, and as proposed by the Hamilton movement, are now free and encouraged to privately collude and select a candidate who may not have even appeared on the general election ballot.
Permanently and legally unbinding electors appears an attractive idea to Democrats as we work to stop the tidal wave of destruction Trump represents. On the other hand, what does the election in 2020 look like under this new system? How will state parties respond to this procedurally?
In an effort to “do anything,” the movement to permanently and legally unbind electors would create a de facto presidential (s)election system and may, as John Lumea states, in fact become the most un-democratic process possible, and open the door for consolidation of power under a type of Totalitarian regime we fear most from Trump.
Why I support the Lessig Equal Protection argument and the movement to replace the Electoral College with a proportional allocation system
1. As a Democrat, I believe that the 2016 presidential election represents the ultimate example of an unfit candidate ascending to the office. To Democrats, this election represents the ultimate test of the Electoral College. I also believe that when the electors convene in their states, very few, if any, electors will defect from Trump. Therefore, this election, in my mind, is the ultimate proof that the Electoral College no longer serves one of its founding and primary purposes. (The others being the assurance that candidates will pay equal attention to smaller states and avoiding influence of foreign powers - and there is substantial room for argument that these purposes are being served).
2. The Equal Protection argument offers a fair, uniform, and viable legal path to disassemble the electoral college in an orderly way, with a replacement ready to go that is completely objective (math), via a judicial process that follows the system of checks and balances set up in the Constitution.
3. By eliminating the winner take all rule, mathematically, proportional allocation is the most accurate reflection of the popular vote, and would have done so in 2016.