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Faithless Electors VI – the House option

December 14, 2016

Update: RNC’s count claims 1 dissenter, Lessig claims 20.

In this part, let’s look at the potential strategy of faithless/dissenting electors to take the election to the House of Representatives, with the goal of electing a Republican-Other-Than-Trump.

Part V of this series examined the individual state level, in the most significant relevant states, to see how well Trump and the national Republican party are positioned to defend against “rogue” electors acting outside of the national R party’s control. I think they are positioned very well, in terms of the national R party driving whatever happens in the electoral college going forward.

I consider the possibility of individual electors acting in favor of Clinton, to be eliminated.

The remaining possibility is to deny Trump a majority of electoral votes, and take the election to the House of Representatives, where the Republican majority would then vote for a different Republican to be president. This is actually much more appealing to several groups. Republican party leadership. A good number of Republican voters who were more interested in defeating Clinton than supporting Trump. And quite a few Democratic voters who never really liked Clinton in the first place, may be willing to settle for this.

I repeat, though, this a hypothetical, a distant possibility.

Procedurally, it would be driven by the national R party, who would have to back up dissenting electors against any political punishment coming from the local level. To take the vote to the House, you would probably see a couple of R states flip completely, from Trump to someone else (such as Romney, to pick a name out of a hat).

The House would then vote between: Trump, Clinton, and whoever has the 3rd-most-electoral votes. (again, lets say it’s Romney for the sake of argument). If the R party maintains unity, they can get a that 3rd person,to be President. [update: see addendum at the bottom for the procedure the House uses in this situation]

On the whole, if an alternate Republican is selected, the country will probably approve, or at least forgive them. I think any civil disobedience coming out of this would actually be pretty minor, since most people didn’t really like Clinton or Trump anyway. Several million voted for Trump in the primaries, but that’s not enough for any kind of revolution (a good thing), other than in a primary election (hint: 2020 would be wild if this all happens). As an insurance policy, though, it probably would make sense for Republicans to pick a third candidate palatable to law enforcement and military types.

And also, anything that involves Congress is never that simple. The House vote would be preceded by all kinds of horse trading and procedural shenanigans. Or else done in the middle of the night without reading the text being voted on, which is even scarier.

So there’s a chance the gambit does not go according to plan, and Clinton wins in the House. In this case, the national R party could simply hang the dissenting electors out to dry. Or it could defend them, that being the job of the future RNC chair (Romney’s niece!). Also if Clinton pulls together a block of R votes in the House to get in that way, the whole civil-disobedience issue is back on the table. But again, unlikely.

On the whole I don’t think Republican leaders will choose the “House option”, for 2 reasons:
1. the Republican party will suffer for it with voters in future elections, since they’ll have completely corrupted their own primary process.
2. I think in general most of the interested parties with any say in it can live with Trump, and at this point, with a conservative and ultra-business-friendly cabinet picked out, that’s probably a lower-risk scenario from their point of view.

[this paragraph updated] Personally, as a Sanders-Democrat/Stein-Green-party supporter, depending on which Republican alternative is chosen (i.e., not Cruz), this scenario may be a slight improvement. On the other hand I definitely don’t want to normalize such an anti-democratic process. While it’s sad to see someone who didn’t win the popular vote become president, does that justify installing someone who didn’t get any votes at all, which is what would happen? This is expanded on, here from the R. point of view.

The real “problem” was that both D and R parties selected 2 deeply compromised (i.e., f***ing awful) candidates, and that the US electoral system is set up to block out 3rd parties. If anything, I hope voters come away from all this with more awareness of these issues.

I’m also getting sick of this election process that never ends. Trying to keep up with another round of obscure rules and backroom gameplay in the House is the last thing I really want to do.

Addendum: Procedure in the House. What happens there is there will be 3 candidates to choose from — the top 3 electoral vote-getters. Trump, Clinton, and whoever the faithless/dissenting electors write in. Then! The representatives form groups (delegations), for each state. The delegations vote amongst themselves, then come together, and each state’s delegation will get one vote! The current House would have 32 state delegations contorlled by Republicans, 15 Democrat, and 3 evenly split. (source: daily beast).


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