Oregon Electors To Vote With Party; In Washington, "Hamilton Electors" Make Stir
On December 19, members of the Electoral College will cast the votes that actually decide who will be President of the United States. While Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, Donald Trump received the majority of electoral votes, making him the winner of the general election. KLCC’s Tiffany Eckert has this refresher on our national system of representation and how two electors plan to vote.
Most Americans don’t give much thought to the Electoral College until it comes time to vote. Even then, an understanding of how this esoteric system actually works could be based on the kind of grade you got in high school civics class.
In 1788, Alexander Hamilton wrote the Federalist Papers: Number 68. There were 13 states in the union, all along tucked the Atlantic seaboard. Hamilton described the mode of electing America’s first President.
Offenbacher as Hamilton : “That the people of each state shall choose a number of persons as electors equal to the number of senators and representatives of such state in the national government who shall assemble within the state and vote for some fit person as president.”
States vary in their methods of choosing electors. In Oregon, dedication and service to a political party is pre-requisite. Republicans choose 7 electors at state and district conventions. For Democrats- it’s the chair and/or vice-chair of the party and the chairs of congressional districts who become electors.
In 2015, Democrat Laura Gillpatrick was elected Chair of Oregon’s 4 th Congressional District. With that, she became a democratic elector.
Gillpatrick: “The basic responsibility is going to be to go up and vote in Salem on December 19 and vote for the candidate who won the Oregon election, which in this case was Hillary Clinton.”
Gillpatrick doesn’t expect much pomp and circumstance when casting her electoral vote.
Gillpatrick: “We’ll be gathering in the State Senate chamber and we will essentially be signing a piece of paper, voting for Hillary Clinton. The neat thing is your signature goes into the National Archives for all posterity.”
Going into it, Gillpatrick says she thought she’d be casting an electoral vote for the first woman president.
Gillpatrick: “But then election night, when the dust kinda settled, it’s like “this is going to be a little bitter sweet.”
Washington state, 12 electors are selected by peers in a caucus and convention process. That’s how Bret Chiafalo became a Democratic elector. Like Oregon, Washington also elected Hillary Clinton for president. But come Monday, Chiafalo will *not be casting his electoral vote for her.
Chiafalo:“After seeing Donald Trump win the election, we decided that based on our knowledge of the Federalist Papers and the Constitution and what the founding fathers truly set up about how the president is elected, that we had no choice but to start working towards having 37 Republican electors vote for a compromise candidate.”
Chiafalo and a handful of others calling themselves “Hamilton Electors,” are committed to cast their electoral votes for a moderate Republican candidate. Someone Republican defectors could get behind, he says. Chiafalo considers parts of Hamilton’s Federalist 68 to be the instruction manual.
Offenbacher as Hamilton: “The process of election affords a moral certainty that the office of president will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with requisite qualifications.”
As a “faithless elector,” Chiafalo will vote against his party and against his state’s popular vote for Clinton. He says he is putting country before party.
Chiafalo:“By showing honor to the constitution and the founding father’s intentions, we believe that’s a much higher calling and a higher bar than a pledge to a political party.”
Pundits are already dismissing the possibility of an “Electoral College revolt.” They say Donald Trump’s electoral lead is too high. And even if 37 electors *did bolt, state legislatures, under the Constitution, have the power to choose or change the slate of electors if they don’t agree with their decisions, faithless or otherwise.
Chiafalo says he spends about 20 hours a day reaching out to Republican electors around the country. He knows it’s a long shot. But he thinks it’s worth it.
Chiafalo: “The idea of kicking in the emergency break because of a purely unfit candidate who won the general election has never happened before and we’ve never had a threat as unprecedented as Donald Trump…”
Alexander Hamilton described it like this:
Offenbacher as Hamilton: “Talents for low intrigue and the little arts of popularity may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single state. But it will require other talents and a different kind of merit to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole union.”
Regardless of how the “Hamilton Electors” fare, Chiafalo hopes to start a national conversation about how we elect presidents.
Chiafalo: “I think Americans assume it’s a democracy and it’s not. We need to talk about it. We need to decide whether we need a Constitutional amendment. If we’re gonna go with direct popular vote or ranked choice voting or instant run off.”
On Monday, December 19 th, members of the Electoral College in 51 U.S. jurisdictions will cast their votes. On January 20 th, the 45 th President of the United States will take the oath of office.
With Claude Offenbacher speaking the words of Alexander Hamilton, I’m Tiffany Eckert, KLCC News.
Click here to read the entire Federalist Paper: Number 68
Copyright 2016 KLCC