The need for “faithful” Electors

I got an e-mail the other day asking me to sign a petition to members of the Electoral College pledged to Donald Trump to switch their votes to Hillary Clinton.

This is theoretically possible.  “Faithless” electors have violated their pledges in previous elections.

161101154244-electoral-college-explainer-animation-orig-00002708-exlarge-169But trying to overturn Trump’s election in the Electoral College would set a terrible precedent.  It is a bad and dangerous thing even to attempt.

If I were a Trump voter in a red state, I would be furious at the idea of my vote being set aside by somebody I probably hadn’t even heard of.

It would mean that, in the future, voting would not necessarily decide the Presidential election.  The vote would be followed by an attempt to persuade, threaten or bribe the Electors into going against the wishes of the voters.

Democracy is possible only when the results of elections are regarded as legitimate, and a peaceful transfer for power is taken for granted.

When elections are not regarded as legitimate, the basis of power is armed force.  And in general the Trump supporters are better armed and better trained in the use of weapons than the Clinton supporters.

The current election is a special case because Hillary Clinton is the apparent winner of the popular vote—at last count, by more than 2 million votes.

It also is a special case because of voting irregularities—not just the possibility that voting machines were hacked, but that legal registered voters were taken off the rolls by the CrossCheck system, and the widespread effort to make it difficult for racial minorities to vote.

But challenging the rules, even when the rules need to be challenged, is something that needs to be done before the game, not after you’ve lost.

What we Americans should be concerned about is making sure vote machine tampering, voter registration tampering and voter suppression don’t happen in future elections.

It would have been a good thing if Barack Obama, Eric Holder or Loretta Lynch had used the powers of their office to do something about vote-rigging.   Maybe as African-Americans they were fearful of appearing to show favoritism to minority groups.

Soon these powers will be held by Donald Trump and probably Jeff Sessions.  I don’t think they’re going to be fearful of showing favoritism to white people.

I think the USA is in for a bad four years and maybe a bad eight years.  But I don’t believe in destroying democracy in order to “save” it.


Democratic presidential electors revolt against Trump by Kyle Cheney for POLITICO.

Two Electors Are Trying to Withhold the Presidency from Donald Trump by Lily O’Donnell for The Atlantic.

Could the Electoral College elect Hillary Clinton instead of Donald Trump by Robert Farley for USA Today.

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2 Responses to “The need for “faithful” Electors”

  1. Dave Weaver Says:

    Phil – I stumbled upon this post – researching the Electoral College. I appreciate your wisdom and insights. I would like to discuss with you your view that if the Electors go ‘faithless’ than that is a bad precedent for Democracy. But what if one candidate wins the popular vote by something like 2.7 million votes. And what if there are many many questions about the election integrity of quite a few states which could easily have flipped the election the other way. And what if – between those two candidates – one had zero government experience of any kind and it was blatantly obvious to everyone who is honest that he has no business anywhere near the white house. Whereas the other candidate has many years of experience as a Secretary of State, Senator, First Lady, private attorney et al. And what if the candidate that ‘won’ the electoral college was suspected of colluding with the Russians, with bribing election officials in Florida, of illegally trading with Cuba during the emargo, of swindling millions of people of health insurance and paid a $25 million settlement and on and on and on,. Whereas the other candidate was found not guilty by the Republican House about 7 times and runs a foundation with an A rating from non-partisan groups. The ‘winner’s’ foundation was found to be illegal and bogus and had to pay fines. Oh – and the ‘winner’ doesn’t believe in paying taxes. My point is – this is not an ordinary election. This is an extraordinary election. I think it’s not a stretch for the electors to side with the candidate that got the 2nd most votes in the History of America and who shows a civil demeanor and an eagerness to reach across the aisle – and a humanity – vs this Emperor with No Clothes. Please join us at for further discussions. Yours – Dave Weaver


  2. philebersole Says:

    Comments by Donald Trump prior to the election indicated that he saw a possibility that Hillary Clinton might lose the popular vote but win the Electoral College vote, and that he was prepared to mobilize his followers to overturn that result.

    Would you have regarded such a move by Trump as legitimate? I wouldn’t.

    I think that trying to persuade the Electors to go against their pledges is an exercise in futility. I don’t know anything they could have learned since the election that they wouldn’t have known before.

    But suppose enough of them change their minds as to deny Trump a majority. I can’t imagine they would vote for Hillary Clinton. In this highly unlikely circumstance, they would probably vote for Mike Pence or some other conservative Republican.

    The election would then go to the House of Representatives, who would choose among the three top candidates — Trump, Clinton and Pence — on a one state, one vote basis. I can’t see them going against Trump and, if they did, they would go for Pence rather than Clinton.

    Pence doesn’t have a record of crooked business dealings as Trump does, and he behaves in public with dignity and self-control, which Trump does not. Otherwise he stands for the same things that Trump does.

    If Trump were pushed aside, then he would come back stronger than ever in four years, because he could plausibly claim that everything that went wrong – the likely coming recession, continued quagmire wars, staffing of government by Goldman Sachs — was the fault of disloyal anti-Trump Republicans.


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