BY JONATHAN EASLEY AND BEN KAMISAR
12/13/16 the Hill
The 538 delegates to the Electoral College will gather at governors’ offices and statehouses across the country Monday to make President-elect Donald Trump’s victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton official.
The results aren’t expected to deviate much from Election Day, when Trump won 306 electoral votes to Clinton’s 232.
Despite media coverage, social media chatter and announcements from a handful of electors who have made their protest votes public, it’s unlikely that electors will defect in significant numbers.
Even so, scattered groups of liberals are using every means at their disposal — lawsuits, petitions, and public and private pressure — to try to convince 37 GOP electors to peel away from Trump to deprive him of the 270 votes needed for victory.
Bob Muller, a GOP county chairman in North Carolina and a Trump elector, said he’s gotten correspondence from “everywhere from Maine to California” asking him to vote differently.
“I just ignore them,” Muller said.
So far, only a few Electoral College voters have publicly declared that they will not back the candidates that their states supported — including just one of the 37 Trump voters that the self-styled Hamilton Electors, a group of mostly Democrats, need to make any noise on Monday.
And even if the rogue electors achieve their aims, they would only succeed in sending the election to a Republican-majority House, which would almost certainly certify Trump’s victory.
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 Rubioduring 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.
“Also, I love the guy and want him to be president.”
Faithless electors are rare but not unheard of in American history.
Only 82 electors in history have voted against their state’s popular vote for personal reasons. Another 71 electors have changed their votes after the death of a candidate. None of those instances have ever changed the outcome of an election, according to data compiled by the nonprofit group FairVote.
There have been only nine cases in the past 100 years of electors breaking from their jurisdiction’s popular vote. Each of those instances happened in a separate election.
It’s been more than 100 years since a group of electors have banded together to choose a different candidate. The most recent push came in 1912 after President William Howard Taft’s vice president died.
Political experts warn that an Electoral College revolt next week — particularly one waged on the heels of such a bitterly divisive election — would cast the nation into crisis. It could roil the financial markets, further harden political divisions and set off an unprecedented struggle for power.
“It would give a lot of people serious confusion and create a sense of panic, even though it would be a perfectly legal, logical progression,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston.
But that hasn’t stopped some liberals from launching a last-ditch effort to block Trump through the Electoral College.
On Capitol Hill, two Democratic lawmakers, Reps. Jim Himes (Conn.) and David Cicilline (R.I.), have openly advocated for an Electoral College revolt.
Lawsuits are underway in California, Washington and Colorado challenging state laws that bind the delegates to voting for their party’s nominee. A federal judge dismissed the case in Colorado on Monday as a “political stunt,” though an appeal could be in the works.
Some Democratic electors have justified their efforts by pointing to Clinton’s 2.8 million popular vote margin to argue that Trump’s victory was illegitimate.
Others are seizing on media reports about Russian interference in the election to demand intelligence briefings for all of those casting ballots, believing it could cause some GOP delegates to abandon Trump. Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta publicly backed the intelligence briefings on Monday.
Meanwhile, several high-profile liberals and progressive groups, like former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, academic Lawrence Lessig and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), are providing logistical support and helping the interested parties to coordinate behind the scenes. Lessig has offered legal help to faithless electors who come from states with laws that prohibit voting for anyone but the winner of the state.
With less than a week before the vote, though, liberals have very little to show for their efforts.
Only one Republican elector, Chris Suprun of Texas, has publicly said he won’t vote for Trump. Suprun told The Hill that he’s “confident” he won’t be the only Republican to buck Trump, but no others have made their intentions public.
Democratic electors would have a better chance of blocking Trump if they joined 38 GOP electors in supporting a Republican alternative, like Ohio Gov. John Kasich, but there is little appetite for that on either side. Kasich himself shot down the idea of using him as a compromise candidate last week.
At this point, the effort appears to be more about undermining Trump, complicating his ability to govern and following personal convictions — and less about actually winning the Electoral College for another candidate.
“I am not looking to be satisfied with just the vote on Dec. 19 or 20, but on January of 2030, when Mr. Trump has either served no time, one term or two terms,” Suprun told The Hill. “History is going to judge my actions on whether he turned out to be Ronald Reagan, Herbert Hoover or Richard Nixon.”
Liberals efforts are a long shot in part because many of the GOP delegates aren’t reluctant Republicans supporting their party’s candidate but outright Trump supporters. That list includes Pam Bondi, the Florida attorney general and close Trump ally, and Ed Crawford, a top fundraiser for Trump in Ohio.
Other Trump electors are GOP loyalists with political ambitions who would risk being frozen out of the party should they break from Trump.
Still, the pressure on these delegates has been intense.
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.
Ballard said he has received more than 500 letters and postcards to his home address from people pleading with him not to vote for Trump. He’s also a defendant in at least one lawsuit against all of the Florida electors that claims voter fraud caused Trump’s victory in the state.
Peter Feaman, another Florida elector, responds with a form letter as long as “the sender is from Florida and is polite.”
“I will follow the will of the voters,” his response reads in part. “This is how this Republic works. It is governed by the rule of law, not individual feelings and fears. I fear you have fallen victim to the unwarranted fear-mongering put out by those that oppose Mr. Trump.”
No Republicans interviewed by The Hill are worried about the outcome.
“I don’t take it seriously at all,” said conservative lawyer Jim Bopp. “It’s inconceivable.”