VALERIE: Bye-bye, boys!
MIRACLE MAX: Have fun storming the castle!
VALERIE: Think it’ll work?
MIRACLE MAX: It would take a miracle.
— dialogue from The Princess Bride
Recently, I wrote a post slagging on the Electoral College.
Now, when I wrote that, it was mostly just a way of venting, of expressing frustration with our quaintly antiquated (but enshrined in the Constitution so 100% applicable) system of electing presidents.
In the intro, I wrote, “I know who won the election based on the rules in place and agreed upon prior to voting. I am not advancing protest, vote contesting, ‘he’s not my president’ talk, etc. No do-overs.”
I wanted to get that bit out of the way so I could proceed to my point, which was to express frustration while making a few horses jokes along the way.
I purposefully didn’t go into some of the worse aspects of the Electoral College, such as its association with slavery and the Three-Fifths Compromise. (If you don’t know that history, hit Google, or start here
. I warn you, it’s depressing reading.)
Upon reflection, I would now like to shift focus to “the rules in place and agreed upon” rather than “not advancing protest, vote contesting.”
Turns out there is a way to fight the result.
It’s incredibly unlikely to succeed, but I don’t believe the odds against success should stop us from doing what is right, nor from advocating others with the opportunity do the same.
As I write this, the election’s popular vote totals have Clinton ahead by ~575,000 votes.
But those are just people, and all we care about is the Electoral College, and Trump won that.
Only he didn’t.
Well, more accurately, he hasn’t won the vote yet … because it has not yet occurred.
Although we’re accustomed to tallying the electoral votes based on the how the states voted and considering that the end of it, the members of the Electoral College do have to actually meet and cast ballots of their own. Those are the ones that really count. This happens December 19.
At that time, if tradition is followed, each state’s electors will all vote for the presidential candidate who won their state’s popular vote.*
But the thing is, they don’t have to.
Most states don’t bind their electors to vote for their popular vote winner, and even those that do seem to only punish with fines. (Frankly, if a fine would be a barrier to performing the act of conscience I’m about to describe, that person would never listen anyway.)
So, how to change the result of a projected Electoral College outcome where the winner is not the same as the popular vote winner? Easy, ask the electors to follow the will of the people and vote for the popular vote winner instead.
About as crazy as betting on a lame horse with a history of never leaving the stall when the race starts.
Each party selects electors with loyalty to the candidate as the prime (only?) consideration, so these aren’t exactly people likely to change their minds, and we need at least 21 to turn from Trump to Clinton in order for this to work.**
There have only been a handful of “faithless electors” across the entire history of presidential elections in this country, and most of those were either accidents or minor acts of protest.
But even those few occurrences demonstrate that the Electoral College vote is not sacrosanct. It can change, if the will is there, if the case is made, if the stakes matter enough.
If you are an elector in one of the states pledged to Trump, you can vote Clinton instead.
The rest of us can ask, nicely, persistently, that those folks do just that.
* Well, except for those in Nebraska and Maine, who vote on other criteria. I know, I know. Shut up. This is complicated enough. Stop with the details. (Turns out, you can job this motherfucker all sorts of ways, and most states just haven’t decided to do so. But that’s a topic for another day.)
**That number is based on projections as I write this (T 290, C 228). Those could change, but I’m not getting into recounts and other issues; one faint hope is all I can manage in this post.
One thought on “Betting on a Lame Horse”
Great Op-Ed, Jon. It is refreshing to sit back, sip a nice glass of red, and contemplate the astuteness of your commentary. I truly wish more people were as articulate, knowledgeable, and CALM about this Electoral College process as you. Although we are on different sides of the road, I truly appreciate your comments.