Now, just five days before the Electoral College’s December 19 meeting to officially decide the presidency, at least 30 Republican electors could be willing to break ranks and block President-elect Donald Trump from becoming the U.S. president, according to Larry Lessig, a Harvard University law professor.
Trump needs 270 electoral votes to take the White House. However, if 37 electors are faithless — that is, if they don’t vote for Trump despite the fact that they’ve pledged to vote for him as the winner of their state’s popular vote — and Trump doesn’t receive 270 votes, the Constitution dictates that the decision as to who becomes president goes to Congress.
Lessig has been offering legal advice to these electors, who he says want to “vote their conscience” and reject the results of the 2016 presidential election.
Many states force their electors to vote according to the mandate of the state’s popular vote, but the Constitution also provides electors a basis to “be able to exercise their independent and nonpartisan judgement about who to vote for,” Lessig told MSNBC.
According to Lessig, the founding fathers designed the Electoral College to be “the emergency break on the process of selecting a president,” and not a cog in a machine rubber stamping election results.
“[Electors] have an ethical, moral obligation once they take the pledge … [to] vote [with their state] unless there is an overriding moral reason not to vote that way. The failure of a candidate to live up to the qualifications would be one such reason,” Lessig said. “And that’s exactly the issue raised by this election, the Electoral College was made for this election precisely.”
Only one Republican elector — Chris Suprun of Texas — has publicly denounced Trump, writing in The New York Times’ op-ed section that he will not vote for Trump because the president-elect is woefully unqualified.
Besides Suprun, the number of other electors that may block Trump is uncertain. Lessig, for his part, has not provided any evidence that anywhere between 20 to 30 Republican electors are considering turning against Trump. The Republican National Committee said it knows of no other electors besides Suprun willing to go rogue.
If significantly more electors do go rogue, the results will be unprecedented in American history. The closest the Electoral College has ever come to revolting is in 1808, when six out of 176 electors rejected James Madison.