The 538 members of the Electoral College are finally set to cast their votes for President on Monday, December 19th. So far, just one GOP elector has publicly announced his intention to vote for someone other than Donald Trump (who, in 2012, railed that the U.S. Electoral College system was "a total sham", calling for "revolution" in response to a candidate winning the Electoral College while losing the national popular vote…as he did this year, by nearly 3 million votes, a record in U.S. history.)
But according to Harvard's Constitutional law professor Lawrence Lessig, who has offered free legal support to electors considering voting for a candidate other than the one their state voted for, "there are now at least 20 GOP electors considering a vote of conscience." Lessig argues electors have a Constitutional right under federal law to vote for whomever they please, despite some state laws that apply fines or other penalties against so-called "faithless electors". (University of Chicago law prof Geoffrey Stone explained this week why he believes they are "faithful not faithless".)
Colorado Presidential Elector Micheal Baca, a former U.S. Marine, joins me today to discuss how he and other electors are planning to vote on Monday. Baca is part of a group calling themselves the Hamilton Electors, citing founder Alexander Hamilton's Federalist Papers explanation of the Electoral College as a device meant to prevent popular demagogues or otherwise unfit or unqualified candidates from becoming President.
Baca explains his own plan, as a Democratic elector, to vote for a compromise Republican candidate, such as Ohio Gov. John Kasich, rather than Hillary Clinton, in order to encourage GOP electors to do the same, in hopes of stopping Trump from winning the requisite 270 vote Electoral College majority. Baca explains why he believes information made available since the election reveals Trump to be unfit for office.
"On December 19th," Baca explains, "538 individual people — not numbers on the map, not computer generated, not Wolf Blitzer numbers — 538 people will be casting a ballot for the President of the United States of America. I believe that by reaching across party lines, I am putting my country above my party. And I may not agree ideologically on what the Republicans stand for, but Donald Trump is a clear and present danger to our republic. And I believe that it's imperative in this election that we do exercise our conscience and our moral judgment."
Baca also tells me during our interview how he became an elector in the first place, the rather stunning way in which he is told the vote is set to occur on Monday in Colorado (with "pre-printed ballots"!), how his experience as a Marine has informed his position, and what he has learned from speaking to other electors, both Democratic and Republican, about how they plan to vote. He suggests a surprise could be ahead, even as I (and he, as well) remain skeptical.
"I try to operate my life with a healthy dose of skepticism," he tells me. "And until things are out in public, the only thing that I will confirm is that we have one public Republican elector. Are there others out there? I do believe so. Are they not public? I do believe so…I'm not Professor Lawrence Lessig (but) I don't think he would just speak without having any factual evidence."
Baca adds: "I think we were all in for a big surprise. Surprises happen. This is the year 2016. If there's a time in history, I believe this is the time." Okay, then. Could be a big week ahead. Or not. It's a fascinating conversation that you may wish to listen to in full.
Also today: The Trump Transition team says a questionnaire sent to the Dept. of Energy seeking the names and backgrounds of climate scientists was "not authorized", and the Massachusetts Attorney General says it's time for ExxonMobil to "come clean" about their efforts to fund climate change denial, now that their CEO Rex Tillerson has been nominated by Trump as Secretary of State.
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