Don't Expect An Electoral Revolt

Donald Trump won the Electoral College with 306 votes to Hillary Clinton's 232, but there's been a lot of speculation that maybe, a group of Trump electors will break ranks and vote for Clinton instead, thus making her president. The Electoral College vote date is Dec. 19 — but don't expect the electors to revolt at the last minute and install Clinton in the White House. There are a lot of good reasons why that's almost certainly not going to happen.

First and foremost, the 306 electors who are set to vote for Trump were chosen by the Republican Party for the explicit purpose of voting for the GOP's presidential candidate when the Electoral College meets. It's not like these are neutral parties, or secret Clinton supporters. Many of them are longtime Republican activists, and there's no reason to think that any significant portion of them oppose Trump strongly enough to buck their own party and become faithless electors. Indeed, just one Republican elector has said publicly that he won't vote for Trump — and he resigned from his position after doing so, thus rendering his moral stance irrelevant.

Second, while there's nothing in the Constitution that requires electors to vote in accordance with how their state voted on election day, many states have laws against faithless electors. By my calculations, 147 of Trump's electors are bound by such laws. If they decided not to vote for Trump, they wouldn't only be defying their party; they'd be breaking the law, too.

There's also a historic precedent to consider. Yes, there have been 157 faithless electors throughout U.S. history, but don't let that fool you. According to FairVote, 71 of those electors changed their votes because the candidate they were pledged to vote for died before the Electoral College met. Moreover, never once have faithless electors actually swung the outcome of an election. That said, 2016 has been a year of many firsts, so perhaps we shouldn't put too much faith in historical trends.

But there's one last reason why you shouldn't expect electors to revolt — or, to be more precise, why it won't terribly matter if they do. A convoluted law passed in 1887 states that if there's a dispute over a state's electoral votes, Congress gets the ultimate say in the matter. Needless to say, it's practically impossible to imagine that the Republican-controlled Congress would be okay with Clinton becoming president thanks to Republican electors breaking ranks.

Make no mistake: The Electoral College is fundamentally undemocratic, and by extension, so are U.S. presidential elections. Clinton received about 2.5 million more votes than Trump, and in any fair system, she'd be the next president. But this isn't a fair system, and while an electoral revolt may give Clinton supporters hope, it's probably not going to happen.