Why efforts to persuade the electoral college to ditch Trump probably won’t work – Chicago Tribune
When Joyce Haas noticed late last month that her mailbox was stuffed fuller than usual, she chalked it up to the arrival of the holiday season.
“I thought OK, it’s Christmas card time!” recalled Haas, 70, one of 538 electors from across the country who will officially pick the next president later this month.
But this was no flood of season’s greetings. It was the start of what she said has been a steady stream of 150 to 200 letters, postcards and handwritten notes urging her to disregard Donald Trump‘s win in her home state of Pennsylvania and vote for someone else. She said she has received thousands more messages via email.
“To me, it has been a form of harassment,” said Haas, a Republican fully committed to voting for Trump.
Many other electors in states won by the president-elect have experienced similar pressure, with a constellation of anti-Trump activists, organized groups and rogue electors waging an urgent, long-shot attempt to prevent Trump from taking office. A Republican elector from Texas announced this week that he will not vote for Trump.
Although their efforts do not appear to have put Trump’s expected victory in danger, they have infused a normally dull quadrennial exercise with political tensions still raw nearly a month after Trump’s defeat of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who easily beat Trump in the popular vote but fell short in the electoral college. They have also given rise to a new round of questions about how the electoral college should operate and whether it should continue at all.
The 538 electors will vote on Dec. 19. Before Election Day, political parties in each state chose competing rosters of electors. In states where Trump won, the Republican slate will vote later this month. The number of electors in each state corresponds to the size of its congressional delegation.
There is no federal law binding electors to the results in their states, and state-level guidelines governing electors vary. “More than 99 percent of electors have voted as pledged” throughout history, according to the National Archives. Trump would defeat Clinton 306 to 232 if all of them do so later this month.
However, Texas elector Christopher Suprun wrote in a New York Times op-ed published online Monday that he does not plan to vote for Trump because he is “someone who shows daily he is not qualified for the office.” He urged others to rally behind a Republican alternative, such as Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
Haas, who is the vice chair of the Pennsylvania Republican Party, shared some examples of letters and emails she has received with The Post, including a few that came in an envelope with the same Stockton, California, return address but were signed by different people.
“Here at the reasons why you MUST vote for Secretary Clinton,” the letters read. They argue that Trump has engaged in “unethical” business practices, appointed senior White House posts to people with records of “BIGOTRY” and point out that Clinton is ahead in the popular vote.
Kimba Livesay, 52, who confirmed that she spearheaded the effort to draft and send the letters, said she started organizing a local group of about 240 women the day after the election. She called Trump “dangerous.” She said she uses her return address in Stockton because “people were afraid to put their own return address on there.”
“We just want our voices to be heard. Do I think it will really change the outcome? I don’t know. Do I think that they might think about it a little differently this time around? Maybe so. And that’s our hope,” said Livesay.
Charles Potts, 72, a Republican elector from Oklahoma, said he’s heard from just two people – a woman from Texas and an unidentified “gay Bostonian.” But the text exchange with the latter individual shortly after Election Day, which he shared with The Post, was impassioned.
“Vote for Hillary. Do it, Charles,” it read.
Potts replied: Why would I do that?
“Because Trump is a fascist bigot who will reduce the rights and outcomes of so many Americans,” the texter wrote.
Potts, who provided the texts and phone number to The Post, said he never got a reply when he asked for the texter’s name. A person who answered a call placed to the phone number quickly hung up.
Ebby Amir, 28, a software engineer from New York, has collected elector contact information through Google searches and with a friend started a website called Ask The Electors, which provides people with a way to email electors with their concerns directly. Through the group, more than 90,000 emails have been sent, he said.
“After the election, there was this sort of frustration to get involved and have more of a voice,” said Amir, who acknowledged that reversing the outcome, as he would like, is a “long shot.”
Bret Chiafalo, 38, a Democratic elector from Washington state who started the group Hamilton Electors, is taking a different approach. He is discouraging people from reaching out to electors. Instead, he is talking to them privately in hopes of persuading enough to unite behind a Republican alternative to Trump.
“Donald Trump is a unique emergency,” he said.
The the name of Chiafalo’s group nods to Alexander Hamilton’s writings in the Federalist Papers, which he and other Trump critics hold up as an argument that the electoral college should serve as a safeguard against allowing someone unfit for presidency to serve.
But many see what Chiafalo and others are doing as nothing more than sour grapes. Robert Asher, 79, a Republican elector from Pennsylvania, said he understands that some may be upset about how Trump won the presidency, but he said that anyone disputing the validity of the institution is a sore loser.
“That’s just the way elections are. I don’t understand why they can’t understand that. But they can’t. It’s unfortunate,” he said.
Mark Weston, an electoral college expert who has written a book, said the likelihood of electors defying Trump is “improbable” because it would require bipartisan coordination unheard of in these rancorous times.
“One-eighth of Trump’s 306 electors, 38 of them, would need to desert him for another Republican, and then if the Democrats were to join those 38 – maybe vote for John Kasich, then Kasich could have 270 electoral votes,” he said. “Unless the Democrats join in, no one is getting the majority, in which case the election goes to the House of Representatives and it’s Republican.”