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Presidential Electors Could Sideline A Trump Presidency, But Should They?

Dec 6, 2016

Donald Trump
Credit Flickr (Creative Commons)

Donald Trump’s Electoral College victory was a surprise for many.  Most polls gave the nod to Hillary Clinton and she did get over two million more votes compared to Trump.  Some critics said a Trump Presidency presents a dangerous future for the U.S.  The Electoral College could stop Trump from becoming President when they vote on December 19th but that’s not expected.  There is a political mechanism enshrined in the U.S. constitution to veto the election of candidates deemed ‘unfit’ to be President.  

Critics have said Trump’s proposals and statements are often dramatic, unrealistic- even dangerous.  Since the atomic bomb was invented, Presidents have been faced with decisions that could alter the state of the world, holding the authority to launch nuclear weapons within minutes.

MSNBC reported in a meeting with a foreign policy expert, Trump asked three times,  ‘Why can’t we use nuclear weapons?’

“His ability to deal with other countries is what worries me the most and with other people. His ability to make agreements and find common ground, which is what life is about.”
 
Las Crucen Omar Zaragoza said he also has concerns about Trump’s statements on women, Muslims and his inexperience in political office. 

 “How well can he manage his emotions? I believe he is very emotional.” Zaragoza said
“In politics you need to think a little more than (just) react with your emotions.”

Then there are Trump’s denials of climate change and his business dealings – both casting major question marks over how Trump will impact the U.S. long term.  

For many, Trump’s inability to win the popular vote is another problem.  Trump’s election is only possible because of the electoral college- a winner takes all system in every state except Maine and Nebraska.

While the Electoral College was Trump’s path to victory, many don’t realize it was designed as a check and balance mechanism intended to stop candidates deemed unfit from becoming President.

New Mexico State University Government Associate Professor Christina Medina said - when Americans vote in the Electoral College system they are actually voting for ‘electors’.

“They have the ability to actually vote for the choice of the state through the popular vote or cast in another way.” Medina said.

Though these electors represent the people ultimately they can vote with their own discretion.

“The founding fathers might have been a little bit-  not hesitant, but suspicious of the aptitude of the common citizen to participate in political life.” Medina said  “So my guess that having that doubt the majority or the popular citizen could actually participate in that way- there is an additional balance there for those who had the experience of being in government.”

Founding father Alexander Hamilton wrote in the Federalist papers;

“The office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”

Texas Elector Art Sisneros said he took that seriously- resigning from his post to avoid casting a vote for Trump.

Medina said electors could vote for another candidate, but it is highly unlikely.

“Could the electors actually cast their votes in a way that Hilary Clinton would become the elected, our president as a result of winning the popular vote?' Medina said “Yes, it is technically possible.”

Though Medina said Trump campaigned on the rules of the Electoral College.

“Trump has said himself; ‘If I wanted to won the popular vote I would have campaigned for the popular vote’ Medina said “His campaign was strategically built around electoral college and knowing what that means.”

In downtown Las Cruces even some who oppose Trump often said his Presidency is inevitable because of the electoral college system, and electors could not choose Hillary Clinton.

“I don’t agree with it” Anna Hileman said “I think it could be dangerous.”

“I’d be pretty disappointed in it” said Kelly Fissel.

“Who knows what else involved in making those kind of decisions” said Kristi Jensen

Zaragoza said the electors should not cast their votes for Trump- not only because of the threat his presidency poses to the U.S. but because he did not win the popular vote. 
 
“That is what a democracy is. We are always seeing what things suit us the most. Usually we try to go for majority- so of course there is always going to be people upset and people happy  but that is the way it is.”  Zaragoza said.
 

And Zaragoza is not alone, more than four million on a change.org petition say the electors should choose Clinton- who secured over two million more votes than Trump.

https://www.change.org/p/electoral-college-make-hillary-clinton-president-on-december-19-4a78160a-023c-4ff0-9069-53cee2a095a8

Medina says the doubts over Donald Trump as President- would be better directed at reform.  A bill in Congress would lead to the elimination of the electoral college and that’s a popular choice.

A 2013 Gallup poll found 63 percent of Americans would abolish the electoral college. Just 29 percent would not and eight percent had no opinion.