Donald Trump has topped the 270 electoral votes he needs to become president, dashing some liberals’ dreams of a last-minute Electoral College revolt that would block him from the office.
Indeed, the overwhelming majority of electors from states Trump won last month did in fact cast their electoral votes for him, as they were expected to, according to reports from the various state capitals that have been trickling in throughout the day.
Trump will end up with 304 electoral votes, well over the 270 he needs. Only two Trump electors defected from him, with one voting for John Kasich and the other for Ron Paul.
Hillary Clinton ended up losing more electors. Though not all the electoral votes from Clinton states have been counted yet, four of Washington state’s 12 Democratic electors refused to vote for her. Instead, three voted for former Secretary of State Colin Powell and one for Faith Spotted Eagle, an activist involved in protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Three other electors attempted to defect from Clinton in other states, but two were replaced by alternates, with the other changing his mind on a revote:
- In Minnesota, Sanders-supporting Democratic elector Muhammad Abdurrahman reportedly refused to cast a vote, so according to state law, he was replaced with an alternate who did vote for Clinton.
- In Maine, Democratic elector David Bright voted for Bernie Sanders at first, but his vote was ruled out of order, and he switched it to Clinton during a revote.
- In Colorado, Democratic elector Michael Baca attempted to cast his vote for John Kasich (as part of the failed scheme to convince Trump electors to back a moderate Republican), but he was dismissed and replaced by an alternate, who voted for Clinton.
Theoretically, legal challenges could be launched related to some of these electoral votes, since the constitutionality of state laws binding electors has never truly been tested in the courts. But at least for the time being, they’re set to count for Clinton.
Overall, though, these will all be irrelevant to the outcome, since Trump will end up with quite a bit more than the majority of electoral votes he needs to officially win the presidency.
The system worked as expected, but serious weaknesses remain
In any normal recent year, this would barely need to be clarified. For nearly two centuries, the Electoral College has been an anachronistic formality that exists primarily to ratify the results of votes cast by the citizens of various states.
But it has long been at least theoretically possible for electors to go rogue. Before Monday, nine electors in the past century had in fact done so, defying the results of their states. Usually, they did so as some sort of protest (though in one case, it seemingly happened by accident).
And it does seem that in a truly close Electoral College vote, our presidential election system might really be vulnerable to some mischief from electors. This outcome drives that home, with a number of faithless electors that’s a record for the modern era.
Still, as I’ve been writing for weeks, an outcome-changing elector revolt was incredibly unlikely to happen this year, for several reasons. Trump’s margin of victory in electoral votes was simply too big. Many states have laws “binding” electors to the results of the statewide vote. And the Trump-supporting electors are generally picked by the state Republican parties or are conservative activists, and are therefore unlikely to defy the will of the GOP.
Now, technically, the votes cast in state capitals all across the country still have to officially be counted by the new Congress on January 6, 2017. But since the vote totals are all made public today, that will be a formality — Donald Trump has won.