How Many Electors Will Vote Against Their States? A Few Have Pledged Not To Support Trump
There was certainly no shortage of controversy leading up to the 2016 presidential election, but that hasn't exactly changed now that it's over. In addition to allegations Russian hackers may have influenced the election's outcome, reports that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has surpassed President-elect Donald Trump by over 2.8 million votes, despite ultimately losing the presidency, has left many voters angry. According to The Independent, Trump is now losing the popular vote by a wider margin than any other president in history, and Americans have been urging their states' electors to vote against him. But how many electors will vote against their states? It's rare for them to do so, but it's also totally possible.
Although Trump won an election victory on Nov. 8, he won't actually officially become the winner until he is voted in by the 538 electors that make up the Electoral College. In most election years, the electors vote according to the way their states voted and the outcome remains the same. But they are also meant to be free to "vote their conscience," and this year, that might mean that some might not vote for Trump after all. Although few are speculating that Trump could really be ousted from the White House before he even moves in, in an interview with MSNBC's Chuck Todd on Tuesday, Harvard University law professor Larry Lessig said that there may be more faithless electors this year than anyone is anticipating.
Lessig said that he believes there are "at least 20" Republican electors who are considering voting against Trump when they cast their Electoral College votes on Dec. 19, and that the number could be even higher than that. That's significant because, according to New York Magazine, 37 faithless electors from Republican states would mean that Trump would fail to win the 270 votes needed to actually secure the election. Not all electors though, can easily do this: according to NPR, 29 states and the District of Columbia currently have laws in place meant to ensure that electors vote in line with their states' results. But the laws also aren't particularly strict, and if any of those electors do opt to switch, the penalty likely won't be significant.
Despite Lessig's claim though, only one elector has spoken openly about pledging to vote against Trump. In a New York Times op-ed, Texas elector Christopher Suprun wrote that "Donald Trump lacks the foreign policy experience and demeanor needed to be commander in chief," and thus, won't be getting his vote. Art Sisneros, another Republican elector from Texas, was also against voting for Trump, according to NBC News, though he opted to resign instead of vote against him.
Even though few electors have publicly voiced their opinions, there are signs that perhaps many of them are still on the fence. According to NBC News, 68 presidential electors have written to National Intelligence Director James Clapper to ask for a briefing on the claims of Russian hacking before they head to the polls, suggesting that they were uneasy about voting for Trump without more information. But so far the briefing hasn't happened — the U.S. intelligence community said it would not discuss the details until the inquiry requested by President Obama is complete — and although many electors have asked for Monday's vote to be delayed until they have more information, The Independent noted that Congress would be unlikely to move to actually do so.
At this point, it's hard to say what will happen when the electors head to the polls, but even if Lessig's prediction is correct, many have speculated that the outcome of the election will still work out in Trump's favor. If he fails to win the Electoral College vote based on the electors' decision (that is, if at least 37 electors vote against him), then the House would decide from the three candidates who get the most Electoral College votes. Each state would get one vote, meaning most of those votes would likely be for a Republican candidate. But at least one of those candidates expected to make the short list — Ohio Gov. John Kasich — has already requested that electors not vote for him, according to NPR. So Trump still might be the most popular Republican choice.
Either way, the fact that the Electoral College vote has become such a contentious issue is a sign that, really, there is nothing typical about this election, or what is likely to be Trump's presidency. While Americans will certainly paying attention to the outcome of Monday's electoral vote, it seems as though the most likely outcome will still be that Trump will indeed end up winning. And, like pretty much every other aspect of this election cycle, that's not likely to be something that everyone will be happy about.