By Jim Ellis
Dec. 19, 2016 — Today is the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December after a national election, which therefore means the Electoral College convenes and will cast their official votes for the offices of president and vice president of the United States.
While Donald Trump earned 306 electoral votes from citizenry participation on Nov. 8, there is no specific guarantee that he will secure that many official votes. Nor are all of Hillary Clinton’s 232 electoral votes necessarily locked down.
As we have covered in previous updates, a group of Democratic electors, calling themselves “The Hamilton Electors”, will culminate their activities today. The group is named after Federalist Papers’ Essay #68, largely credited to Alexander Hamilton, that advises electors to exercise strong judgment in casting their official presidential vote because they speak for the entire nation.
The group is also referencing Hamilton’s section that encourages the electors to protect against “foreign powers [to] gain[ing] an improper ascendant in our councils.” Obviously, this passage is being quoted to help support the claims about Russian election “hacking” that is attracting so much post-election political media coverage.
Several Democratic Electoral College members in Colorado and Washington, two states that will support Clinton later today, lead the Hamilton Electors. Their goal is to convince at least 37 GOP electors from states whose electorates voted for Donald Trump to join with them in not officially supporting him, instead choosing another Republican. So far, only one Republican elector from Texas is saying publicly that he won’t vote for Trump. It is likely, when actual voting begins later today, that the Hamilton Electors will fail in even getting many of their own Democratic sympathizers to vote for someone other than Clinton.
Though this will largely be an exercise in futility, the process actually does not end with today’s vote. Their secret ballots, one for president and the other vice president, will be immediately transferred to the national Archivist. The ballots will then be opened before a joint congressional session on Jan. 6 to officially announce the presidential winner.
But today’s vote still doesn’t end the process. Once the tallies are read to the Congress, members can file objections to individual voters. An objection must have at least one House member and one senator to move the protest forward. The Congress would then retire into its specific chambers for no more than two hours in order to determine if they will sustain the objection. Congress has never before recognized an Electoral College objection.
Because this election and its post-vote period has been so contentious, however, it wouldn’t be surprising to see congressional objections advance, meaning further hurdles that Donald Trump may have to navigate before officially becoming president. It is in this venue where we are likely to see the Russian interference theory being put forth.
Though we believe the marathon 2016 election cycle might finally come to an end today, such may not be the case. Trump and Pence will win the overall Electoral College vote, but even that may not be enough to silence their political and media critics to prevent them from prolonging the process.