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October 17th, 2017

Insight

Fret not GOPers: Why Trump will not fail electoral college

Aaron Blake

By Aaron Blake The Washington Post

Published Dec. 19, 2016

The liberal group MoveOn.org is out with a stunning new poll of its members: 94 percent want the organization to launch an effort to get the electoral college to reject Donald Trump as president! This may surprise you, but this is not a representative sample. Not of the American public, and not even of Democrats or liberals.


Yes, the electoral college still technically has the means to block Trump's path to the Oval Office - at least temporarily - when it meets Monday. But not even Democrats are that strongly on board with the idea.


A new CBS News poll suggests only 37 percent of Americans approve of the idea that electoral college voters should be able to vote for someone other than the rightful winner of their state and votes; 57 percent disapprove of this idea. As you might expect, Democrats are more willing to cast aside protocol and have electors vote their consciences. (After all, doing so could theoretically still mean their candidate, Hillary Clinton, has a shot at becoming president.) But even they are only meh. While 51 percent say they approve of the idea of "faithless electors," 44 percent do not.

It should be noted here that the question isn't about "whether the electoral college should block Trump;" it's instead about whether people are OK with the idea of faithless electors writ large. But it stands to reason that if people don't think electors should do such things, they're probably not OK with them attempting to overturn a U.S. presidential election by doing that same thing.


Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig and others are currently spearheading an effort to get Trump's electors to jump ship and prevent the electoral college from awarding him the presidency. It's very unlikely to happen. Lessig claims about 20 of the needed 37 ship-jumpers have expressed an interest in being "faithless electors," although he's offered no real details.


Only one is on record as saying he'll do it, and AP interviewed some 330 electors and found little indication of a looming revolt.


As Philip Bump wrote earlier this week, electors who are uncomfortable voting for Trump have in some cases resigned rather than follow through with voting against him. Another in Arizona recommitted to Trump after wavering. And here's how the current state of play looks, with just one faithless elector on record:


There is immense public pressure on many of these electors to go against the wishes of their state's voters - one Wisconsin elector told AP he's gotten more than 48,000 emails about it - but this movement's passion far outweighs its actual numbers or momentum. It's a desperation play, pure and simple, because its supporters are so worried about Trump.


But the fact remains that the electoral college, if it were to deprive Trump of the presidency, would risk massive public backlash and a potential constitutional crisis. It would also be doing something even many non-Trump voters aren't comfortable with.


And it would basically only be doing all of it to prove a point; the House, after all, would decide any election in which nobody gets 270 electoral votes. Republicans hold a huge majority there. Which means, barring some scandal way beyond anything we've seen so far, if there were a group of faithless electors significant enough to be decisive, that fact would result in . . . President Trump.

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