With the Electoral College vote less than a week away, Harvard University constitutional law professor Lawrence Lessig says 20 Republican members are considering voting against Donald Trump—more than half the number needed to potentially block the real estate mogul’s election.
The 538 delegates to the Electoral College will gather at state capitols on Monday, December 19 to cast their votes for president. Ahead of that day, Lessig’s Electors Trust group “has been offering pro bono legal counsel to Republican presidential electors considering ditching Trump and has been acting as a clearinghouse for electors to privately communicate their intentions,” Politico explains. Lessig further outlined his arguments for doing so in an op-ed posted Tuesday at Medium.
He said Tuesday: “Obviously, whether an elector ultimately votes his or her conscience will depend in part upon whether there are enough doing the same. We now believe there are more than half the number needed to change the result seriously considering making that vote.”
That claim “contradict[s] the assertions of Republican National Committee sources who report that a GOP whip operation intended to ensure Republican electors remain loyal to Trump found only one elector—Chris Suprun of Texas—would defy Trump,” Politico pointed out.
But that could be because, as Salon reports, “Trump’s campaign is pressuring Republican electors into voting for them under ‘threats of political reprisal.'”
Citing an anonymous member of the Electoral College, the website writes:
“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 based on whether they vote for Donald Trump or not.”
The elector emphasized that these reports had come straight from the Republican electors themselves, with the threats steering clear of violence but instead focusing on “career pressure.”
“It’s all political, basically,” the elector said. “If Trump becomes the president, he’s going to be able to put pressure on the state parties and they won’t be involved anymore.”
Furthermore, The Hill notes, “even if the rogue electors achieve their aims, they would only succeed in sending the election to a Republican-majority House, which would almost certainly certify Trump’s victory.”
Still, Margaret Hartmann wrote at New York magazine on Wednesday, “denying Trump the presidency isn’t the movement’s only goal.”
“Denying Trump his 306 electoral votes could be important symbolically,” she argued, “as it would undercut Trump’s claim that he secured a mandate and serve as a show of strength from his opponents.”
She pointed to a letter sent last week from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) to its members, which explained why the group “has decided to put major resources into the Electoral College protests scheduled on Dec. 19.”
“[W]e’re going to make these protests a powerful show of force,” the letter read. “News coverage of these protests will increase public awareness of the fact that Trump lost the popular vote by 2.5 million votes—helping to blunt his claim of a ‘mandate’ and harden the spine of Democrats to fight.”
The PCCC continued:
We go into this with sober expectations. Barring an extraordinary event, the Electoral College will likely elect Donald Trump as president. However, we can achieve two concrete things with these protests even if Trump wins the vote.
First, by generating media attention for the idea that Electors should support the popular vote winner, we can make it a source of mockery when Trump claims a “mandate” for an authoritarian, anti-worker, right-wing agenda. And when establishment Republicans in Congress claim a “mandate” to ram trillions of dollars of corporate giveaways through Congress.
Second, these events will force the media to report that Trump’s razor-thin victories in battleground states were made possible in part by massive voter suppression. 2016 was the first general election without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act. Over 800 polling places were closed. Early voting was cut. Restrictive voter ID laws were in effect. Hundreds of thousands of voters—disproportionately people of color—were purged from the voter rolls.
“Denying Trump 270 electoral votes…would be jarring,” Hartmann wrote at New York. “At the very least it would spark a more serious and sustained effort to clarify whether the Electoral College exists to rubber-stamp the election outcome or give Americans one last chance to keep an unfit candidate from assuming the presidency.”
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