The results of the vote of the United States Electoral College were even more historic than usual because of the relatively high number of votes for candidates other than the Republican or Democratic presidential and vice presidential nominees, including the effort by Democratic Electors to vote for a compromise Republican candidate.
As a result of the poor character, lack of experience and knowledge and authoritarian tendencies of the Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump, as well as the foreign interference on behalf of his candidacy, and bolstered by a bipartisan campaign to persuade the Electors to vote for a compromise Republican candidate other than Trump, two Republican Electors had resigned to avoid voting against their best judgment and consciences for the GOP nominee and two or three other Electors voted for other Republican presidential and vice presidential candidates.
The Trump campaign and the Republican Party took seriously the efforts to persuade the Electors to vote their consciences, whipping the Electors, even bribing them with dinners in some States and threatening them with political repercussions if they did not vote for Trump. This effort mirrored the bribing and intimidation Trump relied upon during the primary, Republican Convention and general election campaign. After the success of this considerable effort, the Trump campaign and Republican Party then dismissed the campaign to persuade the Electors to vote their consciences as insignificant. Nonetheless, the anti-Trump votes were noteworthy, as was a Democratic effort to vote for a Republican compromise candidate—the first such effort since one made by a Republican Elector in 1960. As with the votes against Trump during the GOP primaries, the Convention and the general election, the Electoral votes against him further demonstrate the separation between Trumpism and conservatism.
Two Republican electoral votes were cast for John Kasich and Ron Paul instead of for Trump. These electoral votes were the first for Republicans other than the GOP nominee since 1976, when a Republican Elector voted not for President Gerald R. Ford, but for Ronald Reagan, who went on to become the Party’s presidential nominee four years later. There was also one vote cast for a candidate in 2016 other than the Republican nominee for Vice President, Mike Pence, which was cast instead for Carly Fiorina, the first by a Republican Elector against his party’s nominee since 1960.
The two electoral votes against Trump were the most by Republican Electors against any Republican presidential nominee ever and the most electoral votes against Electors’ party’s presidential nominee since 1960. They were the most “pledged” (as opposed to Electors who are elected expressly unpledged to vote for their party’s nominee) electoral votes against any living presidential nominee since 1832, when two National Republican Electors did not vote for their party’s nominee; both times were the most since 1808, when six Democratic-Republican Electors did not vote for their party’s nominee. It was also the most “pledged” electoral votes against any winning living presidential nominee since 1808. Note: there were 63 abstentions or votes for others in 1872, after the death of the Democratic nominee.
The two votes against the Republican nominee for President, or the three against the GOP ticket, are the most against any nominee, for President or Vice President, since 1896, when 27 Democratic Electors voted for the Populist Party nominee over the Democratic Party nominee; the two parties had nominated William Jennings Bryan for President. There were 8 votes cast in 1912 against Republican nominee James Sherman, who had died before the vote of the Electoral College. As in the case of the death of the Democratic presidential nominee in 1872, the other major party received a majority of electoral votes. The record for the most votes by any “pledged” Electors against any living candidate for either President or Vice President was set in 1836, when 23 Democratic Electors abstained instead of voting for Richard M. Johnson, which denied him a majority and forced a contingency election by the Senate for President of the Senate for the only time in American history. The Senate elected Johnson Vice President. The 8 combined total Electoral votes for candidates other than their parties’ living nominees for President and Vice President were the most since 1896, and the most total against the major parties’ living presidential nominees ever.
The results of the Electoral College votes in 1960 are particularly comparable with those of 2016. Then, there were 15 votes cast by Electors for a Democratic candidate, Harry Byrd, who was not the nominee of the American Democracy, John F. Kennedy. All but one (from a Republican Elector) of the 15 were cast by Democrats directly elected as “unpledged” (they were elected to exercise their best judgment and vote their consciences, as the Framers had intended). The Republican Elector, “pledged” to Richard M. Nixon and Henry Cabot Lodge, tried to persuade his fellow GOP Electors to vote for Democrat Harry Byrd and Barry Goldwater over John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson as a compromise, as Nixon and Lodge would not have won majorities, to force contingency elections by the House of Representatives and the Senate, respectively. Until 1960, the vote by the Republican Elector had been the only one cast by an Elector for a member of the other major party for either President or Vice President. This year, in addition to two other votes by Democratic Electors for candidates other than their party’s presidential nominee, there were 3 votes by Democratic Electors for a Republican, Colin Powell, as a compromise candidate to thwart the election of Trump.
As retired General and former Secretary of State Powell received the third highest total of electoral votes, he therefore could be elected President by the House of Representatives if the Congress objects to Trump’s electoral votes when it certifies the election on January 6, thus denying any candidate the majority, as the House may chose only from the three candidates who received the most votes for President. The ample grounds by which the Congress may object, in addition to the intimidation of the Republican Electors, will be the subject of an upcoming post. Because of the Republican effort to persuade the Electors not to vote for Trump, the Democrats may have facilitated the election of a Republican as the next President, as the GOP effectively acquiesced to the Democrats instead of seeking a compromise candidate of its own choosing, as the two Republican Electors who were faithful to the Constitution by exercising their best judgment in good conscience did by voting for Republicans other than their party’s nominee.