If you thought the saga of Colorado’s ‘Hamilton Electors’ ended with their much publicized December 2016 vote— think again.
An investigator with the state attorney general’s office has been calling members of the 2016 class of Colorado’s Electoral College in recent days, multiple ex-electors told The Colorado Independent. The investigator left messages asking to discuss the events leading up to the votes they cast at the state capitol on Dec. 19.
But the attorney general’s office won’t explain why.
A national spotlight fell on Colorado’s nine electors— all of them Democrats— when four of them joined a national movement called the Hamilton Electors, which aimed to thwart the election of Donald Trump through the Electoral College process. The plan was to get enough electors nationwide to band together and vote for an alternate candidate, keeping Trump from the White House.
But that would mean electors in 29 states would have to violate state laws that require electors to vote for whichever candidate won their state’s popular vote. In Colorado that meant Hillary Clinton.
Two electors, Colorado Springs math teacher Bob Nemanich and former Denver lawmaker Polly Baca, filed a federal lawsuit challenging the state law on constitutional grounds. They wanted the ability to vote for whomever they wanted during the official ceremony on the day all 538 national electors cast their votes. A judge ruled against them. They appealed and the legal action is still pending.
At the time the Hamilton Electors movement seemed a last grasp for those shocked by Trump’s election and offered some small hope that he might not become president. But the movement never took off. The name was a nod to Founding Father Alexander Hamilton who viewed the Electoral College as a safeguard against anyone who didn’t have “the requisite qualifications” from becoming president. On the day the country’s national electors cast their ballots, only a handful in other states voted their conscience— two Republicans in Texas, four Democrats in Washington State, and one in Hawaii.
In Colorado, Nemanich and Baca ended up voting for Clinton when the time came to cast their official ballots. The scene was chaotic in the Capitol that day as Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams squared off with the electors, providing them with a re-written oath to take before casting their votes.
Only one elector, Micheal Baca (no relation to Polly) voted for someone other than Clinton— Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Doing so made Baca the first elector in Colorado history to vote for someone who did not win the state’s popular vote.
Prior to the vote, Williams had told a national publication that if an elector violated his or her oath to carry out their duties, “I think there’s a basis for a more severe criminal penalty,” and indicated that it could be perjury.
Following Baca’s vote for Kasich instead of Clinton, Williams asked Republican Attorney General Cynthia Coffman’s office to investigate.
That was in late December.
So why is an investigator looking into it now?
Polly Baca, who got a call from someone who said he was an investigator with the attorney general’s office, doesn’t know. She didn’t return the call and says she doesn’t plan to cooperate. The vote took place four months ago.
“You wonder what’s going on,” she said.
Jerad Sutton, another national elector, says he got a call from an investigator with the AG’s office last week.
“I can confirm that I have been called, but I have not met with them or called back,” he said.
Sutton cast his ballot for Clinton, he said, because it was clear the Hamilton Elector plan didn’t catch on, and he considers his vote a tribute to the millions of voters across the country who earned her the popular vote win over Trump. He remains a critic of the Electoral College system— one in which a majority of states force someone to vote a certain way.
Sutton wonders about the timing of the investigation.
“It’s April, people are declaring to run for governor,” Sutton said. “I feel like we’d have an uproar if they actually threw a guy in jail for voting.”
The Colorado Independent reached an investigator with the attorney general’s office who the electors said had called them, but he referred questions by phone to the agency’s public information officer. Annie Skinner, a spokeswoman in the attorney general’s office, declined to comment via email and did not respond to a phone message.
Micheal Baca referred questions to his attorney, Mark Grueskin, who said he represents Baca “on the fallout of the Electoral College vote,” and that he is aware there is some sort of investigation going on.
“We’ll see whether or not there’s anything that comes of it,” he said.
He declined to speculate on why an investigator would be calling about the issue now.
Said Grueskin: “This sounds to me like standard operating procedure when a government agency refers a matter over to the attorney general’s office.”
Photo by Matt Brown for Creative Commons on Flickr.