On Monday, the Electoral College will officially select the 45th president of the United States. Since the upset election of Republican candidate Donald Trump on Nov. 8, some of his supporters seem to be feeling buyer's remorse, while many of those who did not vote for him continue to feel real fear. Some are hoping for a Hail Mary when the country's 538 electors formally cast their votes.
Typically, electors vote in accordance with their party, with Republican electors voting for Trump and Democratic electors voting for Hillary Clinton. In so many respects, though, 2016 has not been business as usual. Trump won 306 electoral votes to Clinton's 232, but Clinton won the popular vote by almost 3 million votes (a fact that many Republicans have yet to accept). As the reality of Trump's America comes into clearer focus by the day, some people are pushing electors to buck the system. It probably won't happen, but if we've learned one thing from 2016, it's that you never know.
What time do the electors vote?
The electors will meet in their respective states and vote on the president and vice president. Their meeting times vary on a state-by-state basis. The vote for each state will be sent to the National Archives, then on to Congress. On Jan. 6, Vice President Joe Biden will meet with members of the House of Representatives and the Senate to tally the votes, awarding the presidency to whomever holds the majority — which is likely to remain Trump. Biden will also invite anyone with objections to voice them.
It doesn't seem outlandish to anticipate that someone in Congress will object to the electors' decision. An objection must be made in writing and signed by one member each of the House and Senate, at minimum. Then the Senate and House will deliberate and decide whether or not to throw out the contentious electoral votes.
Will they change the outcome of the election?
Probably not. It would be quite a feat for the electors to reverse the outcome of the election. As Quartz reported, there are a few ways they could do it. The so-called Hamilton Electors (as in Alexander Hamilton) are working to sway 37 of their peers away from Trump, leaving him with just under the necessary majority of 270 electoral votes.
But in order for their efforts to result in a Clinton win, 38 electors would have to vote for her, which — given that these electors would be Republican — seems like the most remote of remote possibilities. The Associated Press recently spoke with more than 330 of the electoral college's 538 members, and surprise surprise, the Republicans largely plan to vote in line with their party.
If Clinton were unable to secure a majority, then the question would be decided by the House of Representatives, while the Senate handled the vice-presidential election. But, given both the unpredictable nature of the 2016 election and the unpredictable nature of the President-elect, it's possible we haven't seen the last of the year's political surprises. Trump's unresolved conflicts of interest, his apparent knowledge of Russia's alleged interference with the election and his questionable ties to the Kremlin have prompted a group of 55 electors to call for a briefing from the C.I.A. before they cast their votes.
That request has been denied, but with one more day before the electors vote, there's still time for Trump to unleash some kind of controversy on the nation. What would be enough to change a substantial swathe of electoral minds? Considering all that we've seen from Trump so far — the misogyny, the racism, the reneging on key campaign promises — hasn't been enough to drive people away, it feels impossible to say.