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Don’t look to the Electoral College to upend Trump victory

  • In this Monday, Dec. 12, 2016, photo, Hector Maldonado poses for a photo in St. Louis. Although pestered to a fare-thee-well to abandon Donald Trump, Republican electors appear to be in no mood for an insurrection in the presidential campaign’s last voting ritual. Maldonado backed Ted Cruz in the primaries but will cast his vote for Trump with conviction. “I took an oath once to become a U.S. citizen,” he said, “and on Aug. 14, 1995, that was the first oath that I've taken to support the U.S. Constitution. A year later I took the oath again, to support the duties of being an officer in the U.S. Army. This was the third oath that I've taken to execute what I promised to do." (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) Jeff Roberson

  • Rex Teter, a member of the Electoral College, poses at his home in Pasadena, Texas, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016. The sharp divisions left by last month’s presidential election have cast more attention than usual on the Electoral College. Teter, 59, a music teacher and preacher, received about 35,000 emails and 200 letters urging him not to support Trump. It took him several hours to delete them the day after Thanksgiving. A Marco Rubio supporter in the primaries, he is solidly for Trump. "Some have been very personal letters. Some threatening. One was very funny. They view President-elect Trump as a threat so it’s personal for them and I can empathize. But I'm not changing my vote as an elector." (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) David J. Phillip

  • FILE - In this Dec. 16, 1940 file photo, New York State electoral college members cast votes at the state capital in Albany, N.Y. The Founding Fathers set up the Electoral College to ensure a well-informed, geographically diverse group of electors would choose the nation’s presidents. That sounds rational _ and sometimes it even works. But the history of the Electoral College also includes tales of tie votes, hanging chad, conniving politicians and intrigue. (AP Photo) Uncredited

  • Rex Teter poses at his home in Pasadena, Texas, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016. Teter, 59, a music teacher and preacher, received about 35,000 emails and 200 letters urging him not to support Donald Trump. It took him several hours to delete them the day after Thanksgiving. A Marco Rubio supporter in the primaries, he is solidly for Trump. "Some have been very personal letters. Some threatening. One was very funny. They view President-elect Trump as a threat so it’s personal for them and I can empathize. But I'm not changing my vote as an elector." (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) David J. Phillip

  • FILE - In this Nov. 24, 2000, file photo, Broward County, Fla. canvassing board member Judge Robert Rosenberg uses a magnifying glass to examine a disputed ballot at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The Founding Fathers set up the Electoral College to ensure a well-informed, geographically diverse group of electors would choose the nation’s presidents. That sounds rational _ and sometimes it even works. But the history of the Electoral College also includes tales of tie votes, hanging chad, conniving politicians and intrigue. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File) Alan Diaz

  • President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the Wisconsin State Fair Exposition Center in West Allis, Wis., on Tuesday. Although pestered to a fare-thee-well to abandon Trump, Republican electors appear to be in no mood for an insurrection in the presidential campaign’s last voting ritual. AP

  • Electoral College elector John Bickel, a Hawaii Democrat, poses for a photo outside Iolani High School, where he teaches, on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016 in Honolulu. Bickel, who says he plans to vote for Hillary Clinton, recently joined a movement to request information about possible Russian hacking during the presidential election. (AP Photo/Cathy Bussewitz) Cathy Bussewitz



Associated Press
Thursday, December 15, 2016

There’s more hustle than hope behind an effort to derail Donald Trump’s presidency in the Electoral College.

Republican electors are being swamped with pleas to buck tradition and cast ballots for someone else at meetings across the country Monday that are on course to ratify Trump as the winner. Associated Press interviews with more than 330 electors from both parties found little appetite for a revolt.

Whether they like Trump or not, and some plainly don’t, scores of the Republicans chosen to cast votes in the state-capital meetings told AP they feel bound by history, duty, party loyalty or the law to rubber-stamp their state’s results and make him president. Appeals numbering in the tens of thousands – drowning inboxes, ringing cell phones, stuffing home and office mailboxes with actual handwritten letters – have not swayed them.

The interviews found widespread Democratic aggravation with the electoral process but little expectation that the rush of anti-Trump maneuvering can stop him. For that to happen, Republican-appointed electors would have to stage an unprecedented defection.

Still, people going to the typically ho-hum electoral gatherings have been drawn into the rough and tumble of campaign-season politics. Republicans are being beseeched to revolt in a torrent of lobbying, centered on the arguments that Clinton won the popular vote and that Trump is unsuited to the presidency. Most of it is falling on deaf ears, but it has also led to some acquaintances being made across the great political divide.

“Let me give you the total as of right now: 48,324 emails about my role as an elector,” said Brian Westrate, a small-business owner and GOP district chairman in Fall Creek, Wis. “I have a Twitter debate with a former porn star from California asking me to change my vote. It’s been fascinating.”

Similarly deluged, Republican elector Hector Maldonado, a Missouri National Guardsman, has taken the time to console one correspondent, a single mother and Air Force veteran who is beside herself with worry about what a Trump presidency will mean.

“Everything’s going to be okay,” he said he told her. “I know you’re scared, but don’t worry. Everything’s going to be okay. And I know that it will be.”

Maldonado, a Mexican immigrant and medical-equipment seller in Sullivan, Missouri, backed Ted Cruz in the primaries but will cast his vote for Trump with conviction. “I took an oath once to become a U.S. citizen,” he said, “and on Aug. 14, 1995, that was the first oath that I’ve taken to support the U.S. Constitution. A year later I took the oath again, to support the duties of being an officer in the U.S. Army. This was the third oath that I’ve taken to execute what I promised to do.”

It takes 270 electoral votes to make a president. Despite losing the national popular vote, Trump won enough states to total 306 electoral votes. He would need to see three dozen fall away for him to lose his majority. Only one Republican elector told AP he won’t vote for Trump.

Over the sweep of history, so-called faithless electors – those who vote for someone other than their state’s popular-vote winner – have been exceptionally rare.

State law and practices vary for electors, but even in states where electors don’t take an oath to vote a certain way or don’t face legal ramifications for stepping out of line, the heavy expectation is for them to ratify the results. As much as they don’t want Trump in office, some Democrats are as reluctant as Republicans to go rogue.

“We lost the election,” said John Padilla of Albuquerque, N.M., a Democratic ward chairman. “That’s how elections are and you shake hands with your opponent and you get on with what you have to do and support your candidate.”

Yet Democratic electors, stung by losing an election to a Republican who trails Clinton by more than 2.6 million votes nationwide, spoke strongly in the interviews in favor of overhauling or throwing out the electoral system. Republican electors generally supported it, reasoning that it provides a counterweight to political dominance by coastal states with huge, and largely Democratic, populations, like California and New York.

Chiafalo is a co-founder of the Hamilton Electors, a group formed to steer other electors from both parties to a third candidate. “We’ve stated from Day One this is a long shot, this is a Hail Mary,” he said.

But if the effort fails, it won’t be from lack of trying. Most of the pleas to reject Trump are coordinated, automated, professionally generated and, for those reasons, none too persuasive.

“We got a stack of letters from idiots,” said Republican elector Edward Robson, 86, a Phoenix homebuilder.

Fellow elector Carole Joyce, 72, a state committeewoman in Phoenix and retired public health nurse, was more charitable.

“They’ve caused me great distress on my computer, that’s for sure,” she said. “I average anywhere from a thousand to 3,000 emails a day. And I’m getting inundated in my regular mailbox out front – anywhere from 17 to 35 letters a day coming from Washington state, Oregon, all around the country. Hand-written, some of them five or six pages long, quoting me the Federalist Papers, the Constitution, asking me again out of desperation not to vote for Donald Trump.

“And that’s their right,” she said. “I’ve had nothing threatening, I’m happy to say. The election is over. They need to move on.”