By Jim Brunner
A federal judge in Seattle on Wednesday rejected a request by two Washington state electors to pre-empt a state law that could fine them up to $1,000 each if they disregard the state's presidential popular vote.
Democratic electors Bret Chiafalo and Levi Guerra contend the law is unconstitutional, and they should be able to cast their votes as they see fit and without threat of a fine when the Electoral College meets Monday.
But U.S. District Judge James Robart denied their request for an injunction, noting they'd volunteered to become electors and signed pledges to honor the will of the majority of Washington voters who backed Democrat Hillary Clinton.
The ruling was another blow to the movement of "Hamilton Electors" who have launched a late, longshot effort to block President-elect Donald Trump from the White House.
A judge in Colorado this week rejected a similar lawsuit, calling it "a political stunt," according to The Denver Post.
Robart didn't go that far but said there was no legal precedent supporting the electors' arguments, adding their claim that the state law violates their free-speech rights "lacks a significant chance of success on the merits."
Viewing Trump as unqualified and dangerous, Chiafalo and Guerra have said they hope to join with Republican electors in others states to back an as-yet unspecified alternate GOP candidate. If enough electors went along, that could deny Trump the 270 Electoral College votes needed to cement his election, throwing the choice to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Deputy Solicitor General Callie Castillo defended the state's elector law as reasonable and constitutional, and was joined in court by lawyers for Trump and the state Republican Party.
Chad Readler, an Ohio attorney for the Trump campaign, acknowledged the irony of the GOP president-elect sending a lawyer to help ensure Washington's electors vote for Clinton.
But Readler noted the case was part of a broader "11th-and-a-half-hour" effort to undermine Trump's victory in the Nov. 8 election. He said electors are public officials with a role of carrying out the will of the voters _ and no free-speech right to shirk that duty.
Chiafalo and his attorney, Sumeer Singla, said after the hearing that they'll consider an appeal, and noted nothing in Wednesday's decision would prohibit electors from voting their consciences.
"This does not stop that movement at all," Chiafalo said.
(c)2016 The Seattle Times