The petition calls on members of the Electoral College, the people who represent their states in the formal vote for president on Dec. 19, to disregard how their states voted and cast a ballot for Hillary Clinton instead of Trump. But experts say the likelihood of that happening is minuscule.
“This movement is a good way for people to vent,” Jack Pitney, professor of government at California’s Claremont McKenna College, told TheWrap. “But it’s mostly symbolic.”
While 26 states and Washington, D.C., require the electors to vote according to their state’s popular vote, there is nothing in the U.S. Constitution to prevent them from voting their conscience. In fact, the founders put the Electoral College in place as a last-minute safeguard to ensure the presidency wouldn’t end up in the hands of someone they deemed unqualified to hold the office.
But actually getting people to go against their state’s wishes is another matter.
“Since 2000, every election has featured some effort to change the Electoral College vote,” said Michigan State University associate professor of political science Matt Grossman, who was involved in a 2000 campaign to lobby electors to vote for Al Gore instead of George W. Bush. “But none were able to switch a single electoral vote. This one won’t be any different.”
In 2000, Grossman and his colleagues only needed to convince two or three electors to break from their party and switch their alliance, and even then it was futile.
“This time the difference between the two candidates is much bigger,” he said. “You’d have to flip 21 votes and that’s a lot.”
An analysis by the New York Times indicates more than 99 percent of electors have voted in line with their state’s popular vote in the past. But the man who wrote the book on the electoral college — or at least a book — says more could be persuaded.
Northern Ohio University political science professor Robert Alexander, author of “Presidential Electors and the Electoral College,” says his surveys of electors suggest that 10 percent would be receptive to ignoring their state’s vote, under the right circumstances.
In 2000, he said, two electors said they did not believe George W. Bush was elected legitimately, and another two said they were not sure. But even then, none were willing to switch their vote and cast a ballot for Gore, despite enormous pressure from Democrats.
“Some of them received death threats and reported being the target of computer viruses,” Alexander said.
Alexander, who has surveyed electors in every election since 2000, says that the fact that electors even considered splitting with their states was huge. But he said he couldn’t imagine a large contingency of them switching unless something huge occurs between now and Dec. 19.
“If a tape came out showing Trump using the N-word… then I could see it happen,” he said. “But even that won’t help die-hard Democrats as most electors would probably vote for Mike Pence, before they vote for Hillary Clinton.”
Pitney sums it up like this: “Donald Trump will be the next president unless he commits a major felony with a minor farm animal on national TV.”