On Monday, Dec. 19, the Electoral College cast their votes to make the ultimate choice in our democracy — who would become president. While the electors generally agree with the popular vote when it comes to the President-elect, this was not the case in the contest between Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democrat Hilary Clinton, and there were some Americans who were hopeful that the college would overturn Donald Trump’s presidential win.As many people have learned since November, the Electoral College votes are not definitive. In 22 instances in U.S. history, 179 electors have not voted for the elected President of Vice President. The only time in history that this tactic was successful was in the 1836 election, when 23 Virginia electors abstained from voting for the VP-elect, Democrat Richard M. Johnson. Johnson was later elected VP by the Senate.Following the outcome of the 2016 election, nine Democrats and one Republican began a movement intended to sway at least 36 other Republican electors to vote their conscience and choose a Republican candidate other than Donald Trump.
These self-proclaimed “Hamilton Electors,” named for the Founding Father who designed the Electoral College, argue that this year’s results are exactly why Alexander Hamilton designed the college in the first place: to prevent the election of an unqualified candidate or one under the control of foreign powers, or to protest an overall questionable election.
As Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by over 2.29 million votes, and Russian hacking of the election has been confirmed, the 2016 election cycle has been questionable, at the least.
Nearly a week before the meeting of the Electoral College, some electors came forward with reports of threats by the Trump campaign if these electors fail to vote for the President-elect.
“We have gotten reports from multiple people,” the elector said, “that the Donald Trump campaign is putting pressure on Republican electors to vote for him based on . . . future political outcomes.”
Many lobbyists, some of whom are attorneys, expressed support for the Hamilton Electors. In fact, 4,000 out of 1,315,561 U.S. lawyers — attorney members of an organization called Lawyers for Good Government — signed a petition over the course of two days that expressed concern regarding the Russian hacking of the presidential election. The petition demanded the following:
“1. As much information as possible regarding the potential Russian interference with our election must be declassified with sufficient time for the Electors to receive it prior to December 19 so that the Electors may have sufficient information to make an informed decision prior to voting.
2. The Electors must receive an intelligence report detailing what senior intelligence officials know and suspect at this time, prior to voting. This information should include a briefing by the Director of National Intelligence.
3. If it is not possible to declassify this information in time, the date of the Electoral College vote must be delayed until such time as it is possible to provide the Electors with sufficient information for them to make an informed decision prior to voting.”
While the petition made it to the White House, there never was a security briefing for the Electoral College, nor was their election postponed. The Republican electors ultimately voted for Donald Trump, with two dissenting votes from electors in Texas.