People are signing a petition begging the Electoral College to actually elect Clinton
Everyone seems to be dealing with their election trauma in different ways. There are the protestors, the long Facebook-status writers, and even the disbelievers, like the two million people who have signed the Change.org Electoral College petition to elect Hillary Clinton instead of Donald Trump. It’s worth a shot, but whether the Electoral College petition can actually work is probably worth looking into.
The Change.org petition, which went up on Wednesday after the election, is founded on the fact that the Electoral College doesn’t actually cast their votes until Dec. 19 because it’s part of the most twisted electoral system ever. This means that the Electoral College members could theoretically break from the rules and vote for the candidate their state didn’t voted for (i.e. Clinton). But it’s way more complicated than that, because nothing is simple in this world.
Here’s the deal: all states have a “winner takes all” rule for their electoral votes. So even if the race is really close, for example, all of California’s 55 electoral votes go to the winner of that state. But there are 29 states that “bind” the electors to their state’s results, like Florida. In these states, the electors are tied to a pledge basically, since there’s no federal law that prohibits them from voting the way they want.
Change.org petition signers think it’s possible to change the electors’ minds and encourage them to vote against their state’s winner. These are called “faithless electors” and there have been nine of them in the past (you don’t hear about them because there’s never been enough of them to actually overturn an election).
It’s never, ever happened before. But then again, Trump has never happened before. This election is so divisive and Clinton did win the popular vote by a very substantial margin, according to The New York Times. The Change.org petition is asking the electoral voters to go with the majority of Americans who voted overall instead of with a few states with a larger population of Trump supporters. But it probably won’t work for a few reasons.
There could be a bunch of faithless electors that would vote for Clinton instead of Trump, but the results of the vote on Dec. 19 have to be approved by Congress Jan. 6. So, all the Republicans down there at the fuckup farm on Capitol Hill really call the shots. And Republicans are stoked to have Trump (or most of them, anyway) in the Oval Office. So at the very least, if the Electoral College turned the election against Trump, they would probably vote in another Republican (like vice president-elect Mike Pence) instead.
So even if there were enough faithless electors, it probably wouldn’t be Clinton anyway, which is why she’s crazy chill just hiking in the woods with her dog and not planning a coup.
About that “enough” faithless electors. Trump now has 306 electoral votes and Clinton has 232. A candidate needs 270 to win the election, so 37 electors would have to go rogue. A petition might change a handful of Republicans’ minds, but 37? That’s a lot.
And then you have to think about what would really change about 40 peoples’ minds. Petitions and protests could get the electors attention, but what the faithless electors would really need is legal support, since this is unprecedented. Jack Crosbie points out on Inverse that if electors bound to their states’ vote go another way, they could face fines and prosecution. That’s never happened before, but the Electoral College has never changed the outcome of an election this important before, either. Change.org should set up an organization to collect donations so electors would know voters had their backs if they did face legal trouble (because you can’t just bribe an elector with promises of financial support obvs).
So, I’m really sorry if you signed the petition and have been secretly hoping the Electoral College would overturn the results of the election. It’s very probably not going to happen.