In the weeks since the election, people who supported Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, and some Republicans who are opposed to a Donald Trump presidency, have been searching for last-ditch ways to put someone else in the White House. And the number of people supporting the movement is staggering, according to a new report from Change.org.
Change.org announced on Thursday that about 4.7 million people had signed the “Electoral College: Make Hillary Clinton President on December 19” petition started by Daniel Brezenoff. The petition was started on November 9, one day after the election, and was officially designated the fastest growing and most signed petition in the website’s 10-year history.
On November 17, Brezenoff, a licensed social worker and professor in California, announced on his Facebook page that he was going to focus on the petition full time.
Brezenoff’s pitch is simple: “Donald Trump is a danger to the Constitution, and the Electors have the power to stop him,” he said, adding, “this is Constitutional, it’s patriotic, it’s possible, and we’re just getting started.”
Electors will cast their official votes, therefore officially electing the next president of the United States, on December 19.
Can Trump really lose at this point?
It’s possible. Here’s how: There are 538 electors in the Electoral College. Every state has a designated number of electoral votes, and each of the major political parties picks that number of electors. Then, the party of whichever candidate wins state on Election Day gets to send their picked electors to record their vote.
So far, in all, Trump has “won” 306 electoral votes. That means 37 people need to change their vote, and the presidency would be up for grabs.
Just to note: Hillary Clinton was up by 2.35 million votes in the popular vote as of December 1, which Brezenoff says refutes any claims that Trump should be president because “it’s the people’s will.”
Time for some math: How the Electoral College works
Of the 538 electors, 236 electors from 21 states are unbound to vote for their state’s choice and can cast their electoral ballot for whomever they choose.
The other 302 are technically (we’ll get back to that in a second) bound to vote for their party’s candidate, or, in other words, the candidate who won the state’s electoral votes. They come from 29 states, plus Washington D.C.
Back to that technicality. While some states do “bind” their electors’ votes, the penalty for disobeying, or being a “faithless elector,” is small. Some states fine the elector up to $1,000. Others simply replace the person. Some are subject to criminal charges, but that has never been tested. No elector has ever been prosecuted or replaced for being faithless.
You can find the breakdown of states with binding and non-binding votes here.
So can Hillary win?
Well, technically yes. But it doesn’t appear that will happen. So far, at least seven people, six publicly, have stated they will be faithless voters. They are calling themselves “Hamilton Electors.”
Four of those voters are from Colorado, two are from Washington state, and one is an anonymous Republican. Just to note: Colorado and Washington state are both “binding” elector states–Washington imposes a $1,000 fine on those who change their vote, while Colorado replaces a candidate who “refuses to act.”
What’s interesting is the first six publicly-announced faithless voters are Democrats, bound to vote for Hillary Clinton.
So why would they change their vote if they don’t want Trump in the White House?
Well, they are hoping that by picking a third option, a “reasonable Republican who does not have Donald Trump’s questionable ethics,” some other Republican electors will follow suit and abandon their party’s nominee.
If any candidate fails to get 270 electoral votes–so if these so-called Hamilton Electors can convince 37 electors slated to vote for Trump to abstain from voting or vote for someone else–the vote will be sent to the U.S. House of Representatives.
These people hope that by presenting a reasonable Republican, the Republican-held House would have a way to not vote for Trump. However, that is still unlikely due to party loyalty. But it seems more possible if the Republican-held House gets a Republican choice.