I need to preface this by saying this is a highly improbable scenario, and that you shouldn’t get your hopes up too much. In the past, I’ve criticized the Electoral College for many of the same reasons people are for this past election, and the election of 2000 – for my full piece on the subject click here.
The Electoral College was designed by America’s founding fathers to stop what they called, “The Tyranny of the Masses.” The idea was that Americans at the time were too stupid or too ignorant to intelligently cast a ballot for President of the United States.
In Federalist No. 68, which covers the rules and regulations associated with the Electoral College, one of the many Federalist Papers, a precursor to the U.S. Constitution, Alexander Hamilton wrote, “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.”
Hamilton essentially wanted the Electoral College to exist purely so unqualified or corrupt people couldn’t ascertain the office of President.
What people don’t realize about the Electoral College is that the electors, the people who actually vote for President, don’t actually have to listen to the people of the state they represent. Potentially, as was the case in several past elections, electors could vote for someone who’s not on the ballot as a protest vote. This has actually happened before, a recorded 157 times as of 2015, most recently, a Democratic elector in 2004 voted for John Kerry’s running mate in an attempt to keep Kerry out of office.
If enough Republican electors were to vote against Donald Trump in an attempt to keep him away from the Presidency, his winning the electoral vote this past November would be irrelevant.
For this to happen, 37 electors pledged to Trump would have to vote for someone other than him, to get him below the 270 mark. If this were the case, the decision would fall to the Republican dominated House of Representatives to make a choice from the top three contenders, in accordance with the Twelfth Amendment of the Constitution.
So, possibly, and this is a big if, 38 electors voted for someone other than Trump, say third place Republican primary winner John Kasich, this would give the House the ability to pick Kasich, rather than Hillary or Trump, making the Electoral and Popular votes completely irrelevant.
Yes, the chances of this happening are extremely unlikely, but let’s look at the facts before we cast judgment.
This has happened before. In the election of 1824, John Quincy Adams lost both the electoral vote and the popular vote, as there were four major party candidates in the race. No one was able to secure a majority of the electoral votes, and thus, the decision was left up to the House. As a result, the House decided to vote for the most qualified candidate, Secretary of State Adams.
There are no laws preventing this from happening in the majority of the country. As you can see from the below graphic, there is nothing preventing candidates from several major Republican states, including Texas, from voting against a candidate like Trump. Even in states where there is a penalty against doing so, the worst thing that can happen to a “Faithless Elector” is a small fine.
As of today, Dec. 7, one Republican elector, from the state of Texas, who is pledged to Trump has stated that he will be voting against him, as well as eight Democratic electors who are pledged to Hillary. If the so-called “Hamilton Electors” movement takes off, this might only be the beginning.
Again, for 37 Republicans to vote against or abstain from the formal election on Dec. 28 would be nothing short of miraculous. Hopefully, something of this magnitude will happen, if for no other reason than to point out shortcomings in the system and to prevent Trump from entering the White House, but we shouldn’t get our hopes up.