What's an Elector of Conscience (and Patriotism) To Do?

December, 2016

Washington -- As I write this, there are only five days left before the Electoral College convenes. Some of the Electors have grouped themselves into what they call "Hamilton Electors," indicating they will be voting in accordance with Alexander Hamilton's explanation of their responsibilities in Federalist #68, which allows them considerable discretion. Specifically, that includes taking into consideration the qualifications of the candidates and whether the preceding general elections may have been tainted by foreign involvement. In Hamilton's exact words, "the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils."

So far, only one among the Hamilton Electors is an Elector for Donald Trump. It would take about 12% (or only about one in eight) of the remaining Trump Electors to deny him the presidency in the Electoral College. The rest are Hillary Clinton Electors, whose votes may be symbolic but of no practical consequence.

Although the goal of the Hamilton Electors seems to be denying the presidency to Trump, there is, to me, another reason for Electors to deny any candidate an Electoral College majority. Without a majority, the selection of the president would be left to the House of Representatives. This is the procedure set up by the Constitution. The House presumably would select Trump, but not without first having the opportunity to determine the involvement of foreign powers in the general election. This would actually help legitimize Trump, if he is chosen. He would then be the properly chosen president under the Constitution, taking Federalist #68 into consideration.

Using this procedure would have other advantages:

• Electors would have a clear conscience, knowing that they acted responsibly as the founders of the country intended. The choice of president would not forever be disputed, for example, on whether the CIA adequately divulged what it knew before the general election.

• It would provide more time to look into the involvement of foreign powers before the House votes. The House could compel the production of relevant documents.

• It would signal, for future elections, that tampering with the general election, as may have been done in 2016, is not necessarly a formula for victory, because the Constitution provides checks and balances on both the popular vote and on the Electoral College.

• It would ease the consciences of many, many voters who, as it now stands, may have to acknowledge that they were duped. Consider, for example, veterans who voted for Trump not fully aware that he was the candidate of a foreign power against which they once risked their lives, and against which they may have lost compatriots directly or indirectly. Consider any voter who would have voted for Trump under any circumstances, but would feel better with validation through the workings of the Constitution.

Better to have the House take a vote. It would very likely not change the outcome but the process would be cleansing and cathartic for our republican form of government.