For die-hard Democrats holding out hope that they won’t have to live through a Trump presidency, there is a last, incredibly long shot for them latch on to — a surprise twist in the Electoral College.
Though Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 200,000, Trump has won the minimum of 270 electoral votes necessary to be elected president. As of late Wednesday, he had 290 to Clinton’s 228.
According to the Constitution, chosen electors of the Electoral College are the real people who will vote for president, when they meet on Dec. 19 in their respective state capitals.
However, there is technically nothing stopping any of the electors from voting their conscience and refusing to support the candidate to whom they were bound, or from abstaining from voting altogether.
There’s even a name for it: becoming a “faithless elector.”
The idea of electors reversing their vote is rarely discussed — and was most recently bandied about after the incredibly close 2000 election in which George Bush narrowly beat Al Gore. And electors going “faithless” is exceedingly rare.
Well over 99 percent of electors throughout American history have voted as pledged, according to an analysis done by the New York Times.
It does happen, though.
The last faithless elector reared his roguish head back in 2004, when a lone anonymous voter in Minnesota declined to vote for Democrat John Kerry and instead voted for Kerry’s running mate, John Edwards.
The rogue’s vote was purely ceremonial, as Bush already had 286 electoral votes, more than enough to ensure his reelection.
Faithless electors are technically barred in only 29 states from ignoring the will of the voters, though the penalties are light. And a faithless elector has never swung an election.
But given the high dissatisfaction with Trump among Republicans, a few faithless GOP electors could well go rogue next month.
One Texas GOP elector, Chris Suprun of Texas, a firefighter, told Politico in August that he finds Trump so unpalatable he’d consider voting for Clinton when he gets to Georgia’s capital on Dec. 19th.
Baoky Vu, a Decatur businessman, told the Atlanta-based news sitein August that he couldn’t stomach voting for Trump either, and was quietly convinced by local GOP leaders to resign as an elector.
Clinton would need more than 20 GOP electors to go rogue and vote instead for her — a mighty tall order.
Even then, the new, Republican-controlled Congress meets Jan. 6 to approve the electoral college vote, and would certainly vote to void any roguery, handing the victory firmly back to Trump.
The Founding Fathers created the electoral college because the were “afraid of direct Democracy,” according to FactCheck.org.
In fact, Alexander Hamilton thought the electors would make sure “the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”
It remains to be seen, given Tuesday’s surprise election result, whether Democrats — and even some Republicans — who question the “requisite qualifications” of president-elect Donald Trump will push to revisit the Electoral College system.