Faithless electors won’t be able to stop Donald Trump anyway

Source: AP
Source: AP

Americans terrified of Donald Trump's forthcoming presidency have been placing their faith in the Electoral College, hoping enough electors reject the president-elect to stop him from officially winning the White House.

The 538 electors are scheduled to meet Dec. 19 in their individual states, where they are expected to vote for the candidate who won the popular vote in their respective states. To be successful, 37 "faithless" electors — typically nominated by each political party and finalized by the electorate on Election Day — would have to break their pledge and vote for someone else to put Trump below the 270-vote threshold needed to win the presidency.

It's a huge number, and one unlikely to be met, given only one Trump elector has publicly stepped forward to say he will vote against Trump. (Harvard Law professor Larry Lessig claims 20 GOP electors have privately come to him for legal advice on switching their vote, still far shy of the 37 needed.)

And while hopeful Trump foes are focused on reaching that magic number, they are ignoring the wrinkle that comes next — one that makes it even more unlikely Trump will be denied the office he rightfully won.

If 37 faithless electors defect from Trump, the choice for president is then kicked to the House of Representatives.

In that situation, each state only gets one vote per their congressional delegation. With Republicans holding the majority of seats in both chambers of Congress and Congressional leadership — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan — supporting Trump, it's nearly impossible to see how they allow anyone but the Republican nominee to come out victorious.

It would be highly unusual for the House to choose the next president. Congress' lower chamber has selected the president only twice in American history — when the republic was still young, in 1800 and 1824.

The Electoral College keeping Trump from the Oval Office is not just a Hail Mary attempt. It's like the equivalent of winning the lottery and being struck by lightning multiple times in a single day. 

In other words: Don't get your hopes up.

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Emily C. Singer

Emily C. Singer, née Cahn, is a senior writer for Mic covering politics. She is based in New York and can be reached at esinger@mic.com

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