Actors Martin Sheen and Debra Messing are joined by a host of other celebrities – including musician Moby – to ask Republican electors to not cast their vote for President-elect Donald Trump on Monday 19th December 2016.It is meant to be a heartfelt appeal from some of the US’s most recognizable faces.
They’ll do it, meeting in their respective states, on December 19. The outcome is a foregone conclusion, but there is room, however small, for a surprise: an uprising, as called for by some Democrats and even some Republicans, of “faithless electors.”
The argument put forward in the Unite for America clip is simple – Mr Trump is not fit to be president of the United States, and therefore members of the Electoral College should block his entry to the White House.
“Our founding fathers built the Electoral College to safeguard the American people from the dangers of a demagogue and to ensure that the presidency only goes to someone who is, to an eminent degree, endowed with the requisite qualifications,” Sheen explains in the video.
Mr Trump, the celebrities continue, is not “highly qualified for the job” – and therefore the electors could, and should, prevent him from taking office.
In theory, the Electoral College could do this: It would take 37 Republican electors to vote for someone other than Mr Trump – thereby taking the party under the 270-vote threshold necessary for victory – to technically block his path to the White House.
According to cnn.com, These three scenarios could play out.
Scenario 1: The system works and Trump wins
More than 136 million Americans cast a ballot for President on Election Day in November. While Clinton outpaced Trump by nearly three million votes, the Republican’s narrow victories in a series of battleground states secured him a clear victory in the Electoral College.
Based on the November 8 vote, Trump is projected to have 306 votes in the Electoral College — he’ll need at least 270 of them to formally choose him during the December 19 meetings. Those results will be counted and certified by a Joint Session of Congress on January 6. Any other result would throw the republic into a kind of chaos unseen in at least 140 years.
In 48 states and the District of Columbia, all electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who wins a plurality of the popular vote in that state. This is known as a “winner-take-all” system.
Two states — Maine and Nebraska — operate under a “district system,” which awards electoral votes to candidates according to both the statewide vote and the vote in each congressional district. For the first time ever, Maine is splitting its electoral votes. Clinton will get 3 and Trump will snag 1 because of his victory in the 2nd Congressional District.
Scenario 2: ‘Faithless Electors’ go rogue and swing the election to Clinton
Why is this so unlikely? First, consider the makeup of the Electoral College.
The two most common ways electors are chosen — a state-level process — is at a state party convention or by a state party committee. That means electors are often party loyalists and activists — and so would not be leaving just Trump, but defying their GOP friends and colleagues.
Scenario 3: Trump electors defect, but neither candidate receives 270 votes
Before we dig in to how it could go down, here are a few more reasons it will not.
Though there is nothing in the Constitution or federal law that prevents “faithless electors” from voting for a candidate who did not receive a plurality of the popular vote in their state, 29 states do have laws to discourage potential rogues. Among the punishments are potential fines or the threat of being replaced with another elector.
But these laws have rarely been tested, and there is little the state can do to prevent a defection by an elector who is willing to accept the penalty.
So what happens if the “faithless” scuttle the results and effectively deny both Trump and Clinton a clinching 270 votes?
So if the deadlock holds and the House can’t vote on a winner — even more unlikely considering 33 state delegations are controlled by the GOP! — then the new Vice President, as selected in the Senate (with a potential deciding vote from a familiar face), would become the acting President.