Electoral College

The Return of the Rogue Electors

Sometimes a member of the Electoral College doesn't vote the way he's pledged to vote. But will that actually change the outcome?

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Access Washington

Tomorrow may be Election Day, but the next president will not officially be selected until next month, when the Electoral College casts its ballots. Usually this is just a formality, but this is a weird year, so naturally people are spinning scenarios where an elector changes the outcome by voting for someone other than the candidate at the top of the ticket. This isn't just an abstract possibility: Robert Satiacum, one of the Democratic Party's slate of electors in Washington, has announced that he will not vote for Hillary Clinton even if (as expected) she carries his state.

This is not a new development—I wrote about Satiacum here at Reason last month—but it has been getting more attention as Election Day comes closer. That is partly because the polls now show a closer race, so a single electoral vote is more likely to matter. And it's partly because Satiacum, a Native American activist who supported Bernie Sanders in the primaries, has stopped suggesting that he might simply step down rather than vote for Clinton and started saying things like "I hope it comes down to a swing vote and it's me. Good. She ain't getting it. Maybe it'll wake this country up." Hence headlines like the Seattle Stranger's "Fuck This Fucking Guy: Robert Satiacum, the Washington State Democratic Elector Who Won't Vote Clinton."

Another Democratic elector in the same state has now told the Seattle Times that he has "not ruled out" the possibility of voting for someone to Clinton's left. And on the other side of the aisle, a GOP elector in Virginia reacted to Donald Trump's Access Hollywood tape last month by calling on the Electoral College's Republicans to dump Trump. A lot has happened since last month, and Trump is not widely expected to carry Virginia anyway. But if nothing else, that's a reminder that Clinton isn't the only candidate whose electors could defect.

HarperCollins

Of course, there's a big difference between what could happen and what is likely to happen. So what are the chances that anything like this will alter the results?

There is, in fact, a pretty extensive history of rogue electors voting for whoever they want. (This happened in six of the last 12 elections.) But those have been protest votes that don't actually affect the outcome. If Clinton wins decisively this year, we may well see several Republican electors make a point by casting their ballots for Evan McMullin, Gary Johnson, or some symbolic figure who wasn't actually running, such as Mitt Romney. And if Trump beats the odds and outpolls Clinton tomorrow, some disaffected Democratic electors might write in Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Jill Stein, or someone else. But if the margin is actually tight enough for such a gesture to change who wins, it is extremely unlikely that we'll see anything like that happen.

Except, perhaps, in Washington state. Satiacum might just be venting, but he sure sounds serious—and he's not a party flunky, so he might not respond to the usual sorts of political pressure. Forecasters will have to keep him in mind.

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26 responses to “The Return of the Rogue Electors

  1. Tomorrow may be Election Day, but the next president will not officially be selected until next month…

    By the Supreme Court! I knew it!

    Oh, the electoral college. It’s faker than Trump University. Knowing the DNC, Satiacum’s ballot has already been filled out.

  2. RE: The Return of the Rogue Electors
    Sometimes a member of the Electoral College doesn’t vote the way he’s pledged to vote. But will that actually change the outcome?

    No, that will not change the outcome of the election.
    Bend over people.
    This is going to be painful!

    1. There was one “faithless” conscientious objector who changed history a long time ago. He was supposed to vote for a phony crony murdering prohibitionist–one of the creatures spineless looters point to and shriek [ghasp!] capitalist! Instead he kept faith with Patrick Henry’s home state and voted for the first pro-choice woman ever to get an electoral vote. Also on the ticket was a strong defense advocate, name of John Hospers. It was really a perfect ticket nobody knew about because Nixon had the IRS pay the media to ignore them. What was the guy’s name… Buck Rogers? He was way ahead of his time… Something vaguely Irish-sounding…

  3. The Return of Kings (or Queens) as alt-right bloggers have warned about for over a decade now.

  4. President Trump it is!

  5. If this “Native American activist” doesn’t like this country, he should go back where he came from.

    /sarc

    1. They hate us European immigrants. Probably Trump supporters who want to make Iroquois Nation great again.

      1. “If only Montezuma had listened to Trump’s warnings about Hispanic immigration…”

  6. Principals not Principles. These lefties would be perfectly fine with a Republican elector from Utah saying he would never vote for Trump.

  7. Didnt the lp get an electoral vote this way? For a woman!

    1. And IIRC they nominated that elector (Roger McBride?) 4 yrs later (1976).

  8. Hey, don’t be sorry – Sarah Palin is partially responsible for the deplorable congregation.

  9. There’s not really any likely combination of electoral votes for Clinton that will add up to exactly 270, such that his single EV would affect anything. Too bad. Far more likely is that Trump squeaks by 270-268.

  10. You guys should read The Stranger article. No really, it’s super-awesome:

    The majority of people in America don’t really want to rock the boat, they just want to turn it slowly, in the right direction. Otherwise, everyone would be living a pot-smoking, gay-marriage-having country with endless subways and free healthcare (otherwise known as Europe).

    1. That’s why Obama, even though his ratings were around 50 percent during his re-election campaign, still won handily. And that’s why Bush Jr. , got a second term (and had, astonishingly, the same approval rating) even though he was royally fucking up the country in every way possible. Change is scary.

      He talks about he doesn’t “trust” Clinton on issues like the pipeline in Standing Rock (but somehow she’s going to be worse on this issue than Trump. Riiiiight. Sexism much?).

      What does not trusting Clinton have to do with sexism?

      1. To paraphrase Thomas Sowell in a related context, the word “sexist” is like ketchup, you can pour it on everything.

      2. Spoiler votes for the econazis put Bush Junior on the throne and turned the Dems into an appendage of the Green party the way spoiler votes in 1892 turned them into an appendage of the People’s Party. Spoilervotes are the rudder that steers Kleptocracy factions.

    2. . His protest vote has the potential to put the country in the hands of the most dangerously deluded person that has ever sought the Presidency. (

      Immediately followed by Romney! MOST IMPORTANT ELECSHUN EVER!

    3. Mmm….that thar be quality West Coast derp. Prime Northwest stuff, California got nothin’ like it. Just a hint of delicious naivete, and the overwhelming finish of wholesome good intent.

      1. The “majority of people” in America want endless subways and free healthcare. The Majority. Mmhmm.

    4. Awesome. They’re even turning on Susan sarandon.
      FYI regarding the earlier discussion re: prime Sarandon, peak Sarandon was reached in a 70s, Archie Bunker type movie called Joe. Complete with prime Sarandon boobs.

      1. Yes. Susan Sarandon is religiously loyal to looter altruism and her vote could have packed the dissenting clout of 6 to 36 Kleptocracy votes. Nobody understands the wallop of spoiler votes more than hogs being dragged squealing away from the trough. Too bad Vichy Dem party had already capitulated to econaziism. But the Dem Platform could have offered to back decriminalization of all the drugs that helped make Susan’s Brad and Janet performances so memorable. Instead, they spat on hippies, latinos, youngsters, brown people–everyone the cops shoot after claiming to have “smelled marijuana.”

        Sarandon gave the gutless bastards exactly what they deserved!

    5. Omg I just read the comments. And I thought the east coast version of progs was bad. Holy shit you don’t hold back your racism out there at all.

    6. Meatball Subways? I’m in.

  11. So Mr. Satiacum has more integrity than Mr jellete

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