Advocates of the long-shot bid to turn the Electoral College against Donald Trump have been in contact with close allies of Hillary Clinton, according to multiple sources familiar with the discussions, but the Clinton camp — and Clinton herself — have declined to weigh in on the merits of the plan.
Clinton’s team and the Democratic National Committee have steadfastly refused to endorse the efforts spearheaded by a group of electors in Colorado and Washington state. But, as with the ongoing recounts initiated by Green Party nominee Jill Stein, the Clinton team has not categorically rejected them, leaving the collection of mainly Democratic electors to push forward with no explicit public support from the failed Democratic nominee or any other prominent party leaders.
In a sign of the sensitivity of the issue, former Clinton campaign officials declined repeated requests to comment on the Electoral College effort. DNC officials also have not responded to requests for comment.
The Clinton camp’s silence follows its cautious approach to another long-shot effort to deny Trump the presidency: the last-minute recount efforts in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan launched by Stein. Stein’s aggressive push has annoyed Clinton aides but has also not drawn their outward condemnation — Clinton’s top campaign lawyer, Marc Elias, said in carefully chosen language Nov. 26 that the campaign will “participate” in the recounts, without expanding on its plans to get involved.
“Regardless of the potential to change the outcome in any of the states, we feel it is important, on principle, to ensure our campaign is legally represented in any court proceedings and represented on the ground in order to monitor the recount process itself,” wrote Elias.
The electors leading the anti-Trump push say they’re operating without regard to the Clinton campaign’s views and without its assistance. To some leaders of the anti-Trump effort, the lack of formal Democratic Party engagement is an asset as they attempt to woo Republicans.
“We’re really doing this on our own,” said Polly Baca, a Democratic elector from Colorado and organizer of “Hamilton Electors,” the group encouraging Republican defections from Trump. “This is something we have to do as electors. This is our responsibility.”
But Clinton will not be able to avoid getting drawn into the Electoral College machinations. That’s because her husband — former President Bill Clinton — is a Democratic elector from New York. Aides to the former president have declined repeated requests for comment on whether he intends to fulfill the role or pass it to an alternate when New York’s Electoral College members convene in Albany on Dec. 19. Baca has indicated that she intends to reach out to all electors — including Clinton — for support.
Another leader of the Hamilton Electors group, Colorado elector Micheal Baca (no relation to Polly), said the group’s outreach efforts are wide-ranging.
“Given what’s at stake, we have been outreaching to everyone we can including electors, various members of both parties, and the media,” he said. “One of the most inspiring things about this entire process is how we have encountered such patriotism from both sides of the aisle and much willingness to unite for America.”
Backers of Hamilton Electors are also preparing a wave of lawsuits challenging 29 state laws that purport to bind electors to the results of the statewide popular vote. These laws have never been enforced or tested, and many constitutional scholars believe they conflict with the Founders’ vision of the Electoral College as a deliberative body. Courtroom victories, they hope, will embolden other electors to join their cause.
All 538 members of the Electoral College will meet on Dec. 19 in their respective state capitals to cast the formal vote for president. Trump won the popular vote in states that constitute 306 electors — easily above the 270-vote threshold he needs to become president if all Republican electors support him. That’s why anti-Trump electors are working to persuade at least 37 Republican electors to ditch Trump, the minimum they’d need to prevent his election, and join them in support of a compromise candidate, which could send the final decision to the House of Representatives. Clinton won the popular vote in states that include a total of 232 electors. As of Monday, she led in the popular vote nationwide by more than 2.6 million votes.
At least eight Democratic electors are promising to defect from Clinton and support a Republican alternative to Trump.
While Trump’s lawyers have been working to stymie the recounts, his campaign has paid little attention to the Electoral College initiative. The same is true of the Clinton camp. Clinton would need all three recounts to overturn the Election Day results to get to 270 electoral votes — an extremely unlikely scenario.
Recounts aside, there’s little incentive for the Clinton camp to become involved with the anti-Trump effort because it can result only in detracting from her electoral vote total. The only reason to engage at all would be to support an effort to deny Trump an Electoral College majority.
The Democratic electors have already revealed that they’re close to a consensus pick for whom they will vote: Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
Kasich is increasingly seen as the most acceptable Republican alternative to electors on both sides of the aisle, according to multiple electors familiar with the conversations. They note that Kasich defeated Trump in Ohio’s primary, that the governor boasts a high approval rating in his state and that Kasich was reportedly under consideration to be Trump’s vice president before he selected Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.
“Many Electors are saying that Gov. John Kasich would be best for our country. A consensus is beginning to form that Gov. Kasich would be best positioned to unite America,” Micheal Baca said in a statement to Politico on Sunday. Other electors involved in the effort confirmed this line of thinking.
It’s unclear whether Kasich would accept support from these electors, and a top political adviser downplayed the strategy.
“There’s no question Trump won enough votes in the states to receive over 270 votes when the members of the Electoral College meet,” said Kasich’s top political adviser, John Weaver, when asked about the prospect that some electors might vote for Kasich. “I’m sure the [Electoral College] will affirm this when it gathers later this month.”
Even if no Republicans join the recalcitrant Democrats, eight defections from Clinton would represent more “faithless electors” — members who don’t vote for their party’s designated presidential candidate — than at any time in American history. Leaders of the effort claim at least one firm commitment from a Republican elector, though none has spoken out publicly.
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