Elections

Electoral College: Are Idaho’s 4 electors being pressured to dump Trump, or harassed?

Idaho Electoral College elector Melinda Smyser, right, pictured in June with Idaho state Republican chairman Steve Yates at the party’s convention in Nampa.
Idaho Electoral College elector Melinda Smyser, right, pictured in June with Idaho state Republican chairman Steve Yates at the party’s convention in Nampa. AP

Across the country, people who refuse to accept Donald Trump’s election victory are turning to that idiosyncrasy of American government, the Electoral College, to try to overturn the result. It’s a long-shot strategy at best, and one that’s turned nasty in some places — including, apparently, Idaho, where Trump’s win netted him four electoral votes.

The state’s chief elections officer, Secretary of State Lawerence Denney, said Idaho’s four Republican electors who will represent the candidate when the Electoral College votes next month are being aggressively lobbied to abandon Trump.

Phone calls to the electors “are crossing into what could reasonably be considered harassment,” Denney said in a statement Monday. The incidents are “disheartening and show a tremendous disrespect for the individuals tasked with casting Idaho’s electoral ballots.”

Denney was not specific, but said attempts to “sway an elector’s commitment to their party through insults, vulgar language, or threats, simply lacks civility.”

The Electoral College represents the electoral votes allotted to each state — one for each senator and House member — plus three for the District of Columbia, 538 in all. In most states, the candidate who wins the popular vote receives all of that state’s electoral votes, and the winner’s electors are expected to vote for the candidate when electors convene after the election. This year, electors meet on Dec. 19.

Not all states require their electors to vote for the candidate to whom they are committed. Idaho is one of 21 such states. Electors in many of those states are thus being pressured not to vote for Trump, becoming so-called “faithless” electors.

Idaho’s Republican electors are Layne Bangerter, who was Trump’s Idaho state campaign director; Jennifer Locke; Melinda Smyser; and Caleb Lakey.

“If the presidential election had been different, the presidential electors would be from a different party and would still deserve the same respect,” Denney said. “They don’t deserve to be mistreated by someone just because that person doesn’t agree with the outcome of the election.”

Denney said people could write to electors via his office.

Bill Dentzer: 208-377-6438, @IDSBillD

Denney: Idaho’s Presidential Electors Deserve Our Respect and Civility

Here is the presss release from Lawrence Denney’s office:

Idaho’s Presidential Electors will meet at noon on December 19th as directed by the Congress of the United States. At that time, they will cast their votes for President and Vice President. Idaho Secretary of State, Lawerence Denney, would like to remind Idaho citizens, along with citizens around the country that the four people tasked with casting Idaho’s Electoral College ballots are exactly that ‐ people.

Presidential Electors are individuals appointed by each political party and each independent Presidential candidate prior to the election. These individuals take a pledge that, given the opportunity to represent their state and their party in the Electoral College, he or she will cast an electoral vote for the party’s nominee for both President and Vice‐President. Since a majority of Idahoans cast their ballots for the Republican Party nominee, Donald Trump, Idaho’s four electors will be the four Presidential Electors appointed by the Republican Party.

In recent days, Idaho’s four Republican Party electors have been receiving phone calls regarding their vote in the Electoral College from citizens within Idaho and outside of the state. Many of these phone calls are crossing into what could reasonably be considered harassment. The callers are trying to persuade the electors to become what is known as a “Faithless Elector”. Going against their pledge, “faithless electors” either abstain from or cast a ballot in opposition to their party’s designated nominee.

“While there is no Federal requirement binding electors to their pledge, and while Idaho is one of 21 states that does not have state‐level legislation to force an elector to comply, attempting to sway an elector’s commitment to their party through insults, vulgar language, or threats, simply lacks civility…” says Secretary Lawerence Denney, Idaho’s Chief Election officer.

“These are people who have volunteered to represent our state and their party in a process that goes back to the founding of our nation,” Secretary Denney continued.

“If the Presidential Election had been different, the Presidential Electors would be from a different party and would still deserve the same respect. They don’t deserve to be mistreated by someone just because that person doesn’t agree with the outcome of the election. It is one thing to have a civil conversation and share your concerns, but some of the reports I’ve received are far from that type of behavior.” The incidents Secretary Denney has been made aware of are “disheartening and show a tremendous disrespect for the individuals tasked with casting Idaho’s electoral ballots.”

While our current Electoral College was implemented in 1804 with the passing of the 12th Amendment, the Electoral College has existed in some form since unanimously electing George Washington on February 4, 1789. The first faithless vote was cast by Samuel Miles, a Pennsylvania Federalist, who believed no Presidential candidate other than George Washington should ever be elected unanimously, in 1796.Throughout our history there have been a total of only 157 faithless electors. Seventy‐one of these faithless electors were because of the death of a party’s nominee, like the 63 electors who would not vote for Democratic Presidential nominee Horace Greeley in 1872 when he died after the November election but prior to the convening of the Electoral College).

The most recent occurrence of a faithless elector was in 2004 when an anonymous elector from Minnesota voted for the same candidate for both President and Vice‐President.

To date, no elector has ever changed the outcome of the election by voting against his or her party’s nominee.

“I ask that those who wish to share their opinions with the four Presidential Electors remain respectful to the individual serving.” Secretary Denney continued. Also, those who wish to share may send a letter or email in care of the Secretary of State’s Office. These will then be provided to the Presidential Electors prior to the Electoral College meeting on December 19th.

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