Why Electoral College Electors Are Free to Vote Their Consciences

A “Star Wars” loving elector is ditching Donald Trump. Here’s why he’s allowed to

Last Updated: December 19, 2016 @ 8:16 AM

A Texas elector is drawing attention for saying he won’t vote for Donald Trump when the Electoral College convenes in two weeks. And legally, there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

“I am asked to cast a vote on Dec. 19 for someone who shows daily he is not qualified for the office,” Christopher Suprun explained in a New York Times piece in which he criticized Trump’s anti-“Saturday Night Live” tweets and also discussed “Rogue One.”

The Guardian reported that at least seven other electors have indicated they intend to break ranks with their party and become “faithless electors” to prevent Trump from clinching the presidency.

Among them is Levi Guerra, a 19-year-old member of the Electoral College from Washington state, who announced on Wednesday that she intends to join the Hamilton electors, who take their name from what they say was the founders intention that electors would refuse to vote for anyone unfit to be president.

Hamilton once said that the electoral college exists to ensure that “the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”

If Trump’s electors vote with the will of the voters in their states, he will receive 306 electoral votes — well above the 270 he needs to secure the presidency when the electors vote on Dec. 19.

But the co-founder of the Hamilton electors, Bret Chiafolo, also from Washington, predicted the rebellion could grow to include 50 to 100 electors across the country. Chiafolo acknowledged his estimate was not backed by evidence.

A Change.org petition calling on Trump electors to instead vote for Hillary Clinton has earned more than 4.9 million signatures — including from Lady Gaga, Sia and Pink. The electors will vote on Dec. 19.

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. 

Though electors are allowed to vote differently from their states, experts say the likelihood of many doing that is quite small.

“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.”

“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.”

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. In 2000, Grossman and his colleagues tried to convince two or three electors to break from their party, but the effort 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.”