One last chance?Posted: December 16, 2016
stirred the pot the other day with this tweet.
I mean, I like being lumped in with the #coolkids.
When I tweeted that, I meant what I said: it would be a cool movie. The Electoral College members are mostly, as I understand it, a bunch of ordinary schmoes. 99 times out of a hundred their job is rubber stamping, a comical bit of leftover political inanity.
But what if, one day, it wasn’t so easy?
What if, one day, these ordinary citizens were called upon to make a tough choice.
A choice that would bring them right into the line of fire.
A choice that would change history.
The idea of Trump in the White House makes me sick. 61,900,651 Americans disagree, obvs. An Electoral College revolt is a crazy fantasy. But I enjoy thinking about it!
What is right and wrong for the Electoral College to do?
Says the National Archives:
There is no Constitutional provision or Federal law that requires Electors to vote according to the results of the popular vote in their states. Some states, however, require Electors to cast their votes according to the popular vote. These pledges fall into two categories—Electors bound by state law and those bound by pledges to political parties.
The U.S. Supreme Court has held that the Constitution does not require that Electors be completely free to act as they choose and therefore, political parties may extract pledges from electors to vote for the parties’ nominees. Some state laws provide that so-called “faithless Electors” may be subject to fines or may be disqualified for casting an invalid vote and be replaced by a substitute elector. The Supreme Court has not specifically ruled on the question of whether pledges and penalties for failure to vote as pledged may be enforced under the Constitution. No Elector has ever been prosecuted for failing to vote as pledged.
Today, it is rare for Electors to disregard the popular vote by casting their electoral vote for someone other than their party’s candidate. Electors generally hold a leadership position in their party or were chosen to recognize years of loyal service to the party. Throughout our history as a nation, more than 99 percent of Electors have voted as pledged.
The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) has compiled a brief summary of state laws about the various procedures, which vary from state to state, for selecting slates of potential electors and for conducting the meeting of the electors. The document, Summary: State Laws Regarding Presidential Electors, can be downloaded from the NASS website.
From the NASS website, here’s how it goes down in my home state of California:
Whenever a political party submits to the Secretary of State its certified list of nominees for electors of President and Vice President of the United States, the Secretary of State shall notify each candidate for elector of his or her nomination by the party. The electors chosen shall assemble at the State Capitol at 2 o’clock in the afternoon on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December next following their election. In case of the death or absence of any elector chosen, or if the number of electors is deficient for any other reason, the electors then present shall elect, from the citizens of the state, as many persons as will supply the deficiency. The electors, when convened, if both candidates are alive, shall vote by ballot for that person for President and that person for Vice President of the United States, who are, respectively, the candidates of the political party which they represent, one of whom, at least, is not an inhabitant of this state.
That seems pretty standard. In some states they meet in the governor’s office or the office of the secretary of state. In Massachusetts they will meet in the Governor’s office:
You’ve probably seen this quote:
Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States
But to me, the more interesting one is this one:
Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption. These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one querter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.
Now, I hear the argument that the cool kids are always changing the rules. I don’t think I agree with the logic of this petition, which is half “Hillary won the popular vote” (who cares, that’s not the rules we were playing by) and half “Trump is unfit to serve.”
The Trump being unfit to serve bit was up to the voters. Seems very dangerous to me for the Electoral College to start making that call. That is some wonked aristocratic bullshit that the Constitution maybe intended, but which the Constitution as practiced and understood has moved away from?
But if it were proven Trump colluded with a foreign power, then I think hell yeah! If you believe, as I do, that the Constitution is a genius mechanism full of checks and failsafes, isn’t the Electoral College designed exactly to be one last chance for good old-fashioned citizens to stop a presidential candidate who allowed a foreign power to gain an improper ascendant in our councils?
I don’t think we have the proof that Trump did that. But I think the Electors are totally within their rights to think about it and decide what to do.
In closing my feelings are well summarized by Ben White: