Colorado Congressman Ed Perlmutter’s office is reviewing information alleging that as many as 50 members of the Electoral College, Republicans and Democrats, may have cast their votes for president in violation of their respective state laws.
Perlmutter, a Democrat who represents the northwest suburbs of Denver, is one of about a dozen Democratic members of Congress whose offices were sent an information and research packet Wednesday by an informal group of lawyers from across the country.
The legal briefing to federal lawmakers comes before Friday’s joint session of Congress when the 2016 Electoral College votes will be ratified two weeks before Donald Trump is set to take office. Lawyers involved in doing the research are urging members of Congress— so far Democratic members— to review the report and raise objections during Friday’s session.
“Members of Congress have an obligation to preserve and defend the Constitution, but they also have a responsibility to protect the American people,” North Carolina attorney Arlaine Rockey, who worked on the research with other lawyers, told The Colorado Independent. “Most Americans think the election is over, but Congress has the opportunity to choose a different president on Friday.”
If accurate, the research indicates that enough Electoral College votes might have been improperly cast to potentially deny Trump the 270 Electoral College votes he needs to take office. Or at least that is the hope by some promoting the material and urging lawmakers to act on it.
Rockey said lawyers and legal assistants worked pro bono over the holidays to research votes cast by national electors after they found some Electoral College votes in North Carolina might have been cast improperly. Another lawyer involved confirmed this, but said each attorney had their own reasons for why they got involved. One told The Colorado Independent that the effort is not about blocking Trump from the White House at all.
“Our concern is some of the Electoral College votes cast might have been cast in violation of state law,” said a lawyer from the Northeast who asked that her name not be publicized because she worries about repercussions. “That’s where we’re coming from.”
She noted that she herself would not refer to the project as an effort to block Trump. Instead, she said, “It’s an effort to ensure that the Electoral College votes in accordance to the U.S. Constitution.”
Ryan Clayton of the group Americans Take Action— which has been involved in an earlier effort to block-Trump through the Electoral College— is waging a publicity effort to promote the report independently from lawyers involved in researching it.
“There is an untapped enthusiasm around the country right now to create a new American resistance to Donald Trump,” he told The Independent. “And I hope that the members of the House and the members of the Senate wake up and realize that they could help lead the charge and help us stop Trump, or they need to get out of the way.”
As for Perlmutter, his spokeswoman Ashley Verville said that his Washington, D.C. office received the information Wednesday afternoon, but that the Congressman wouldn’t comment on it because staffers are still reviewing the material. The report comes with a 50-page summary, multiple spreadsheets, supporting evidence, and research about making congressional objections.
In general, Verville said, Perlmutter is concerned about Russian interference in the presidential election, an issue that was not raised in the research packet sent to lawmakers about the Electoral College votes.
Thursday morning, Perlmutter issued a statement in advance of the Electoral College vote count saying he believed “it is clear Russia intervened in an attempt to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”
He did not mention the lawyer report. A copy of the report sent to members of Congress about alleged violations, obtained by The Colorado Independent, reads in part:
In general, two types of state laws were violated—(1) laws requiring electors to represent districts where they reside and (2) laws prohibiting dual-office holding. At least 16 Republican electors lived outside the congressional districts they represented, and approximately 34 Republican electors held dual offices—as presidential elector and state official…
Further, members of Congress have been told Republican electors in seven red states “lived in the wrong congressional districts and electors in 19 red states held dual-offices in violation of their state laws.” Research on the specific electors in question is contained in the reports.
But the research also comes with a disclaimer stating that, because the lawyers who did the research are not election law experts, “We cannot guarantee that all of the law contained herein is complete or that the evidence is accurate,” and urges members of Congress to employ their own staff to further research the material.
That was a point highlighted on social media by national election law expert Rick Hasen. His point, he said in an e-mail, “was only that if they couldn’t get any election lawyers interested in working on their case, that tells you something about how strong it is.” Hasen said he has not gotten a chance to look at the research.
Federal lawmakers can make objections during Friday’s joint session to review and tabulate the Electoral College votes. Vice President Joe Biden will read the tally. Law allows for members of Congress to challenge the electoral votes, though it has never been used to block a president from taking office before.
Micheal Baca, a former member of Colorado’s Electoral College from Denver who was stripped of his duties and replaced on Dec. 19 when he declined to cast his vote for Hillary Clinton, the candidate who won Colorado, says if the findings are true he would hope members of Congress object on Friday.
“I think that if Donald Trump is below the threshold, then the third leading voter getter would have been Colin Powell and I would hope Congress members and senators would object and select Colin Powell as president,” he said.
Rockey agreed, adding she does not know the process for what might happen if Trump is denied enough Electoral College votes to take office.
“But that’s a long way,” she said. “There are a lot of hurdles in this process.”
Photo by greg westfall for Creative Commons on Flickr.