On Dec. 19, Colorado’s nine members of the Electoral College will travel to the state Capitol in Denver and cast their official votes for president. Because of what might happen that day, C-SPAN wants to televise the proceedings.
“Colorado is one of a number of states we are looking at, allowing a national audience to better understand exactly what the process looks like,” Steve Scully, the network’s political editor, told The Colorado Independent. “As with all of our coverage, it’s an unfiltered look at what our Founding Fathers established in America’s Electoral College system.”
C-SPAN couldn’t have picked a better place to show how the sausage is made.
Four of the nine national electors from Colorado are on record saying they might violate state law on Dec. 19 and try to cast their votes for someone other than Hillary Clinton who won their state.
Because Clinton carried Colorado, all of the nine national electors in the state are Democrats, selected by their fellow activists in the spring during party caucuses. And because of a state statute here — 28 other states have similar laws — they are supposed to vote for the candidate who won Colorado.
But some of these electors might revolt. That is, if they can find enough of the 538 other Electoral College members to rally behind an alternative to Donald Trump. With 306 projected Electoral College votes, Trump already has enough to win the White House— if all electors cast their ballots for him in the states he won— despite losing the national popular vote to Clinton.
Jerad Sutton, a 33-year-old math teacher from Greeley, is one of these electors from Colorado. And he’s excited to hearC-SPAN might be there to broadcast what goes down next month.
“We have this system … which people don’t really understand and I don’t think is portrayed very well on television,” he says. “We’re just like numbers on a map and that’s actually not true, we’re actually human beings and that’s in the Constitution— that these human beings vote for the president.”
Since March 1, Sutton has cast a vote for Clinton six times throughout the state’s byzantine early-nominating caucuses-assembly process. Whether his seventh vote, set for Dec. 19, will again go to Clinton, he doesn’t yet know.
Sutton is one of a handful of national electors from Colorado and Washington state who hope to use their influence as members of the Electoral College to find a palatable alternative to Trump. They believe Founding Father Alexander Hamilton envisioned the Electoral College as a deliberative body that could thwart an unqualified candidate from becoming president. The framers of the U.S. Constitution created the Electoral College as a failsafe against direct democracy, which they did not trust.
The handful of national electors who are hoping to convince enough of their counterparts to cast votes for someone other than Trump have been dubbed Hamilton Electors. But they aren’t working to give the Electoral vote to Clinton — because there are more Republican electors than Democrats nationally, any alternative to Trump would likely have to be a Republican.
These electors also believe decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court afford them the ability to defy state law and vote their conscience on Dec. 19. A Colorado lawyer is advising them. At this point it is unclear what might happen at the Capitol on Dec. 19 if Colorado’s electors choose to cast a vote for someone other than Clinton and become what is known as a “faithless elector.”
While Clinton won the popular vote by more than 2 million votes— more than John F. Kennedy in 1960, Richard Nixon in 1968, and Al Gore in 2000— Trump is projected to win the Electoral College vote by 306 to 232.
Sutton says not so fast.
“Election Day actually hasn’t happened yet,” he said by phone Tuesday evening while on the way to coaching basketball practice. “No one has actually voted for president yet if you believe in the actual Electoral College.”
So far, only Democratic national electors have been talking publicly about this anti-Trump plan, though Republican electors elsewhere are aware of it.
Republican elector Matt Moore, for instance, who chairs the South Carolina Republican Party, says he has received thousands of emails asking him to consider not voting for Trump on Dec. 19. In the emails, some of which he shared with The Independent, writers have urged him to “vote your conscience,” or to cast his vote for Mitt Romney — or even Hillary Clinton.
Moore said the idea that he would vote for anyone other than Trump is “ridiculous.”
Closer to Colorado, Republican elector Karl Allred in Wyoming says Trump might not have been his first choice for president, but the voters in his state elected him in his position to represent their views. Trump won Wyoming.
“If I was to do anything other than represent the view of the voters who placed their trust in me that would be dishonest,” Allred told The Independent.
As for Sutton, he says he’s still going to try to do what he can to be part of an effort to change the minds of enough electors. He has only been part of the Democratic Party in Colorado for about two years. He didn’t expect when he ran to become a national elector in the spring that this is what he would be doing after the election.
He thought if Clinton won Colorado, she would likely win the whole election, and he would be invited to her inauguration as a national elector.
“I’m definitely not going to the inauguration now … I’m probably not going to be invited,” he said. “Unless this works out. And then I’ll be there as part of the electors that made it happen, that got Trump out of the White House.”
Photo by Tracie Hall for Creative Commons on Flickr.