How a Small But Growing Group of Electors Hopes to Stop Trump

by | December 1, 2016

By Walker Orenstein

A longshot campaign to block Donald Trump from the presidency using the Electoral College has added another renegade elector from Washington state, the group announced at the Capitol in Olympia on Wednesday.

State Democratic elector Levi Guerra, who lives near Vancouver, Wash., joined the small but outspoken outfit calling for members of the Electoral College to pick a Republican "consensus candidate" rather than Trump, when they decide the next president on Dec. 19.

It's a plan with little chance of succeeding. But it's necessary to try to stop Trump, Guerra said, calling the GOP businessman a "demagogue." Guerra, 19, is the third Washington Democratic elector to publicly express support for the movement and reportedly the seventh nationally.

"I believe that there are Republican leaders out there that the whole country can unify behind," she said.

In nearly every state, including Washington, the winner of the state's popular vote gets all of the state's electors. All 12 of this state's electors are pledged to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

The leaders of the campaign to block Trump hope to convince enough Democratic and Republican electors to unite behind a third candidate -- or at least to win over enough Republican electors that Trump ends up lacking the 270 votes required for the presidency, in which case the decision would fall to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Trump won states that have a combined 306 electoral votes, meaning 37 Republican electors would have to defect.

Bret Chiafalo -- a leader of the self-described "Hamilton Electors" -- said at the Wednesday press conference that blocking Trump is a "moral imperative."

The Everett resident cited Trump's incendiary rhetoric on the campaign trail about minorities and Muslims and also attacked Trump for appointing Steve Bannon as chief White House strategist.

Bannon formerly ran Breitbart News, which Bannon called "the platform for the alt-right" -- a movement often associated with anti-Semitic, misogynistic and racist views.

Chiafalo floated Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg as possible alternative candidates.

The electors championing the Electoral College revolt say their effort is "in the spirit of" founding father Alexander Hamilton.

Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury, once wrote the Electoral College is necessary to ensure "the office of the President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications."

One of Washington state's most prominent Trump supporters, state Sen. Doug Ericksen, rebuked the Electoral College dissenters, calling the effort "irrelevant" and its supporters within the electoral system "a very small fringe element."

"I think that those people should get together with Jill Stein and go hand-count ballots in Michigan," said the Republican from Ferndale, referring to the Green Party candidate's ongoing recount efforts.

Ericksen was Trump's deputy campaign director in the state.

"The election is over -- Mr. Trump won," Ericksen said. "So they can be crazy like Jill Stein and drag this out or they can do their job and follow the will of the people."

The "Hamilton Electors" face an uphill battle.

The Associated Press has reported that historically 99 percent of electors have voted for their party's nominee and so-called "faithless electors" have never swung an election. Electors can be subject to penalties for breaking with their pledge to honor the results of the state's popular vote. In Washington, faithless electors face a $1,000 fine.

Colorado Democratic elector Michael Baca has joined Chiafalo's movement, and Washington Democratic elector Robert Satiacum has expressed support for it. Satiacum made national headlines this year when he pledged not to cast his vote for Clinton. Satiacum, a member of the Puyallup Tribe, supported U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

The Guardian reported Wednesday that three other Democratic electors from Colorado have said they will join the anti-Trump protest.

Guerra and Chiafalo said they have both spoken with Jaxon Ravens, chairman of the state Democratic party, who did not indicate he would try to replace them with other electors.

Marc Siegel, a spokesman for the party, told The News Tribune and The Olympian by email that Ravens "is talking to all the electors and encouraging them to fulfill their duties as Democratic electors."

Chiafalo said "many" Republican electors had shown interest in their cause, but wouldn't speculate how many anti-Trump voters they may have. In Texas, a Republican elector resigned his position in the Electoral College this week rather than vote for Trump.

"We've never had any confusion about the fact that it's a long shot," he said. "But we do believe there's a very real path to this happening."

(c)2016 The News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.)