Trump Haters Cling To Far-Fetched Plan To Stop His Presidency

People are putting their faith in a long-shot Electoral College technicality

Nov 10, 2016 at 6:10 PM ET

Against all odds and expectations, Donald J. Trump will be the next president of the United States. But, that fact has so unsettled a set of Americans that thousands are clinging to the hope that a rarely-used (and barely feasible) technicality in the Electoral College can still boot President-Elect Trump out of the White House before he moves in.

While much of the country detests the Electoral College, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s our system for choosing our presidents. And as of Thursday, Trump has 279 electoral votes, while Hillary Clinton counts 228. This translates to a triumphant Trump, despite the fact that Clinton won the popular vote by 200,000. If you add in third party voters, many more people didn’t vote for Trump than did.

But for some Democrats and members of the #NeverTrump movement, there’s still a shred of hope. On December 19, chosen electors of the Electoral College are set to convene state capitols around the country and cast their votes for the president. In essence, it’s nothing more than a formality.

But technically, there is nothing in the United States constitution preventing any of the electors from becoming “faithless electors,” or abandoning the candidate who they’re bound to and throwing their support behind another (or simply not voting at all). And while some states prohibit faithless electors, the fines or penalties for doing so are usually minimal.

With this in mind, over 600,000 people have signed “Electoral College: Make Hillary Clinton President on December 19,” a petition on “We are calling on the Electors to ignore their states’ votes and cast their ballots for Secretary Clinton. Why?” the description asks. “Mr. Trump is unfit to serve. His scapegoating of so many Americans and his impulsivity, bullying, lying, admitted history of sexual assault, and utter lack of experience make him a danger to the Republic. Secretary Clinton WON THE POPULAR VOTE and should be President.”

According to an analysis by the New York Times, over 99 percent of electors in United States history have voted as pledged. But there are instances in which they’ve come out. The last time a faithless elector attempted to shake things up was in 2004: an anonymous voter in Minnesota didn’t vote for Democratic nominee John Kerry but instead for his running mate, John Edwards. Unsurprisingly, the move had no impact on the election or George W. Bush’s 286 electoral votes.

Clinton would need more than 20 Republican electors to switch their vote in her favor — a scenario that’s so unlikely to be impossible. But possible faithless electors reared their heads even before the petition started circulating. Chris Suprun, an elector from Texas, told Politico in September that he wouldn’t cast his vote for Trump unless he toned down his demeanor. “The nominee…is saying things that in an otherwise typical election year would have you disqualified,” he said, but he’s since said he’ll support the president-elect.

Suprun has also been responding on Twitter to users begging him to switch.

Baoky Vu, a Republican from Georgia, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he couldn’t vote for Trump either, and instead stepped down as an elector rather than switch his vote.

When asked if this idea could possibly hold any water, Jonathan Rauch, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institute, didn’t mince any words: “All I can say about it is that it’s ridiculous and not worth taking seriously,” he told Vocativ in an email. Philip Wallach, another senior fellow in governance studies at Brookings, echoed this sentiment. “I don’t think there’s any chance of a movement like that getting any traction,” he told Vocativ in a phone interview, adding that they may succeed in peeling off one or two electors.

Impossible though it may be, the desperation with which people are clinging to the idea still illuminates how much a big portion of the population fears a Trump presidency — even if one can no longer be prevented.