The Faithless-Elector Fantasy Is Fun, but It’s Just a Fantasy

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tags: election 2016, Electoral College, Faithless Elector



Jeff Greenfield is an author and longtime network TV analyst.  His latest book is "If Kennedy Lived."

When it comes to faithless electors, I wrote the book—literally.

Okay, it was a novel, and a satirical one at that. But I did immerse myself in the law, and the lore, of the Electoral College, and the potential for “faithless” (or rebellious or courageous) electors to throw the whole process of picking a president into a cocked hat. (The novel, The People’s Choice, is available at fine church basements and rummage sales, or here.)

It’s from this perspective that I’m watching the various efforts to deprive Donald Trump of his majority when the electors meet in their respective states this week. There are six Democratic electors from Washington and Colorado trying to persuade their Republican counterparts to join them in voting for Mitt Romney or for Ohio Governor John Kasich. (Kasich’s rejected the idea out of hand). There’s a Texas Trump elector who says he can’t vote for him. There’s Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig, who promises to offer free legal defense to any Trump elector who votes for Hillary Clinton.

It’s all a shadow play—entertaining, provocative, but bearing no relation to current political reality.

In theory, Trump would offer the perfect case for rebellion. He lost the popular vote by 2.7 million votes; four of the last five GOP presidential nominees and a substantial cohort of Republican senators refused to back him. Even now, after the election, a majority of Americans believe he lacks the temperament or qualifications to be president.

But when theory meets reality, the prospects dim to invisibility. To begin with, Trump’s electoral majority is simply too big. Think back to 2000, when George W. Bush emerged from the post-election battle with 271 electoral votes. Had only three of his electors defected to Gore—on the ground, say that Gore had won half a million votes more than Bush, he would have had the majority (at least temporarily; more on that in a moment). Not a single Bush elector bolted; including those unbound by any state law forcing them to stay with their pledged candidate. The prospect of persuading 37 Trump electors to rebel is all but non-existent. ...




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