Following two legal setbacks in an effort to stop Donald Trump’s election, Colorado’s Electoral College members are in a holding pattern.
On Monday, the state’s nine Democratic electors will convene at the state Capitol in Denver to officially cast their votes for Hillary Clinton as part of the formal process of electing President Trump.
Or — at least for some of them — they won’t.
Two of the nine, Polly Baca of Denver and Bob Nemanich of Colorado Springs, are holding out hope that enough of the 538 electors nationwide will agree to vote for an alternative to Trump and block him from the White House. Because more electors around the county are Republicans, they assume that alternative would be one, too.
But if they do become part of this plan and vote for someone other than Clinton, who won Colorado, they would be acting in violation of a state law, despite their legal quests this week to nullify it.
Meanwhile, Colorado’s Republican secretary of state, Wayne Williams, has suggested that electors who do go rogue could face perjury charges. Since he was named as a defendant in their lawsuit, he has had harsh words for the electors, calling their effort “evil,” “odious,” “arrogant” and part of an “illegal conspiracy.”
“If Elector A writes down Bernie Sanders or Ted Cruz or anyone other than Hillary Clinton, they immediately cease to be an elector and they’re replaced,” Williams told Politico. “The difference here is you have perjured yourself.”
The threat of perjury is the latest escalation in a fraught standoff between the electors and state officials as next Monday’s noon deadline looms.
On Monday, a federal judge blocked a legal action to try and nullify Colorado’s law that requires electors to vote for the candidate who won the state. Then, the following day, a state court judge ruled that electors can be removed and replaced if they don’t vote for Clinton. (The remaining electors will immediately choose a replacement.) And, the judge said, there will be repercussions for doing so, though she declined to say what they might be.
Jason Weskoy, a lawyer representing Baca and Nemanich, says he has filed an emergency appeal to the 10th federal Circuit. An appeal on the state court case has been filed with the Colorado Supreme Court. Other lawsuits are pending in California and Washington state.
Asked if the goal is to get them before the U.S. Supreme Court before Monday, Weskoy said he didn’t know if that is in the realm of possibility. But others, like the chief Washington correspondent for The National Law Journal, think it might be.
Calif. and Wash. state electors' challenges now before 9th and 10th circuits. Look for weekend #SCOTUS action soon after decisions.
— Marcia Coyle (@MarciaCoyle) December 15, 2016
So far only one Colorado elector, Micheal Baca, who was en route to Washington Thursday and was not involved in the lawsuit, has said he fully intends to vote his conscience on Monday— an indication he might not vote for Clinton. Under oath in a Denver courtroom Tuesday, Polly Baca (no relation to Micheal) and Nemanich said they did not know how they planned to cast their votes.
Pressure has also ratcheted up on other electors nationwide.
Activists urging electors to vote their consciences to deny Trump through the Electoral College have published full-page ads in The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Austin American-Statesman, The Salt Lake City Tribune and Tampa Bay Times, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the The Wisconsin State Journal.
“Never in our Republic’s history has there been a President-apparent comparable to Donald Trump,” the ads read. “His inauguration would present a grave and continual threat to the Constitution, to domestic tranquility and to international stability.”
On Sunday, supporters of the effort plan to hold candlelight vigils to bring attention to the movement by these self-styled Hamilton Electors.
And then there are the Russians.
As news broke over the past 72 hours that the CIA concluded Russian hackers tried to disrupt the 2016 election in a way that favored Trump, 10 electors nationally including Micheal Baca requested an intelligence briefing before they cast their vote.
“The goals right now are twofold,” says Nancy Ngheim, who is part of a group called Hamilton Defenders that offers legal advice to electors should they need it. “One is to encourage the president and the director of National Security to release the CIA report because electors feel strongly that they should be briefed on Russian involvement in this past election.”
A separate legal group aiding electors, Hamilton Electors Trust, run by Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig, says it knows of about 20 electors who are committed to voting against Trump. Lessig has not named them or provided evidence they are on board. His group is offering confidential consultations with GOP electors.
So far only one Republican, Chris Suprun of Texas, is on record saying he will not vote for Trump.
“On December 19th, 30 electors are planning to vote their conscience to prevent a Trump Presidency,” he said in a statement provided to The Colorado Independent by the group Hamilton Electors.
The reason it’s so hard to nail down how many might be committed to the movement is because there’s much risk and little reward, especially for Republicans, to come forward if the effort falls through.
“The reason why we’re keeping that confidential is because we want to give people a way out,” Ngheim says. She said she expects a few new names to come out Thursday or Friday.
While Trump himself has waded into the fray by intervening in some of the lawsuits, he has yet to make a public indication that he is concerned about the long-shot effort’s potential success.
A poll by The Associated Press of 330 national electors from both parties found “little appetite for a revolt.”
One thing keeping hope alive for elector Nemanich is that so far the 2016 election has been crazy and there’s no reason to assume it won’t continue.
In Colorado, the electors will swear their oath and cast their votes at the Capitol at noon on Monday. Local TV stations are likely to televise it.
Photo by frankieleon for Creative Commons on Flickr.