Trump Campaign Seeks to Block Colorado Suit Freeing Electoral College Members to Vote Their Conscience

Trump is threatened by "Hamilton Electors" movement.

Photo Credit: www.archives.gov

Donald Trump is afraid of a rebellion by Electoral College members who will break ranks and choose someone else for president, denying him the 270 votes needed when that body meets next week in the final stage of the 2016 election.

Trump’s fears are laid out in a lawsuit filed Monday in Colorado, where two Democrats on that party’s Electoral College slate have sued over a stage law that binds its Electoral College members to the popular vote outcome. They are part of the Hamilton Electors group, who are seeking to stop Trump from becoming president.

“We are a group founded by several members of the Electoral College dedicated to support [Alexander] Hamilton’s vision that members of the Electoral College should be free to vote their conscience for the good of America,” their website says. “We believe that Hamilton had somebody very much like Donald Trump in mind when he charged Electors in Federalist 68 with safeguarding the office of the presidency.”

“In 2016 we’re dedicated to putting political parties aside and putting America first,” they said. “Electors have already come forward calling upon other Electors from both red and blue states to unite behind a Responsible Republican candidate for the good of the nation.”

The Colorado suit brought by Democratic electors Polly Baca and Robert Nemanich terrifies Trump, because it could state a federal court precedent that would free electors across the U.S. from being bound by state laws to vote for their state’s popular vote winner. The Constitution doesn’t say that Electoral College members will be subject to such rules. 

“Despite their prior commitment to honor the outcome of Colorado’s presidential election, Plaintiffs now claim they might consider voting for people other than Secretary Clinton and Senator Kaine,” Trump’s motion to intervene in the lawsuit said. “Of course, President-elect Donald Trump and  Vice President-elect Mike Pence have more than enough electoral votes to secure their respective offices.”

That last assertion is not quite right and is refuted by their motion’s continuing argument.

“Plaintiffs’ lawsuit, however, threatens to undermine the many laws in other states that sensibly bind their electors’ votes to represent the will of the citizens, undermining the Electoral College in the process. That is why the President-elect and his Campaign seek to intervene in this case,” they said. “Should this Court conclude (despite decades of legal and historical precedent to the contrary) that it is unconstitutional for Colorado to bind its presidential electors, similar statutes in other states where the President-elect won may also be in jeopardy. The President-elect and his Campaign therefore have a direct, substantial, and legally protectable interest in preventing the invalidation of Colorado’s law requiring presidential electors to honor both their  prior commitment and the voters’ will."

Trump’s filing is yet more evidence that he is paying close attention to the legal efforts that challenge his fitness for office and could stop him from assuming the presidency. He and Republicans stopped a recount in Michigan, and were successful in limiting ballot scrutiny in recounts in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Trump knows his ascent to the presidency hangs on the Electoral College’s antiquated system that overrides the popular vote. Hillary Clinton won 2.85 million more votes than Trump nationally.

The question, of course, is how many potential electors would break ranks and how might that play out. So far, nine Democratic electors have endorsed the effort and one Republican – Chris Suprun of Texas – has signaled support as well. These are some of the same electors that called for CIA to brief them on their until recently secret report that showed how Russia helped Trump. Right now Clinton has 232 Electoral College votes and Trump has 306. To win, 270 votes are needed.

It’s not as simple as saying that Clinton needs 38 more votes, because some of the Hamilton electors might not support her even if they don't want Trump. It is anybody’s guess how many Republican electors are willing to break ranks. One source said as many as a dozen GOP electors are leaning that way, but that’s far short of the 40-to-50 needed to prevent Trump from becoming president.

“The Founding Fathers intended the Electoral College to stop an unfit man from becoming President,” the Hamilton Electors' homepage said. “The Constitution they crafted gives us this tool. Conscience demands that we use it.”
 
 

 

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Steven Rosenfeld is a senior writing fellow of the Independent Media Institute, where he covers national political issues. He is the author of several books on elections, most recently Democracy Betrayed: How Superdelegates, Redistricting, Party Insiders, and the Electoral College Rigged the 2016 Election (March 2018, Hot Books).