During this brutal election season there was one hope we were all clinging to: “At least this will all be over after Nov. 8.” However, there’s a theory floating around the Internet suggesting this isn’t true, that Hillary Clinton could still become President, and that maybe this election process isn’t over yet.
So if you’ve heard this theory and wondered if it were true, or you’re looking for a resource to point a conspiracy theorist in your church to, here’s a quick primer on what this rumor is all about and whether it’s plausible for Clinton to still become President (the short version: It’s not).
Wait, how is this even still a question?
The reason some are still talking about a possible Clinton presidency is because technically we haven’t voted for our President yet. It sure seemed like it, what with all the cable news drama and their fancy touchscreen TVs and whatnot, but what rarely gets mentioned on election night is that we technically aren’t voting for the President at all. We’re voting for the Electoral College.
The Electoral College is arguably the weirdest political quirk of the entire U.S. Constitution. Established in Article 2, Section 1, the Electoral College is a group of representatives who vote for President on behalf of their state. So when we punched our ballot for Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump or Harambe the Gorilla, we weren’t actually choosing those candidates but rather a group of electors representing those candidates. There are only two potential slates of electors to choose from: the Republican or Democrat slate, although they can vote for a third party. These electoral slates were chosen by each party prior to the election (more on that in a minute).
Forty-eight of the 50 states have a “winner takes all” rule, the other two being Nebraska and Maine who assign their electoral votes by who wins each congressional district. Whoever wins the popular vote for those states gets all the electoral votes…at least in theory. Members of the Electoral College don’t technically have to vote in line with their state, which is where the whole “Clinton could still win” idea comes in.
Could voters in the Electoral College “go rogue”?
This is the big idea behind Clinton becoming President. Since Clinton won the popular vote, and since the electoral votes are fairly close, couldn’t some members of the Electoral College be persuaded to change their votes—what’s known as being a “faithless elector”—and swing the election for Hillary?
Technically yes, this could all happen. Also it absolutely won’t. The biggest reason is we’re not talking about one or two or even 10 votes that need to change. Donald Trump won the Electoral College by 36 votes. For Clinton to win the presidency outright, 37 electors would need to change their votes. That won’t happen.
Members of the Electoral College have good reason to toe the party line
You don’t just randomly get chosen for the Electoral College. Appointees are nominated by the Republican or Democratic parties as a way of saying “thanks for all the hard work you’ve done for us.” Nominees are not anonymous and are normally state officials, influential donors or people heavily invested in the success of their party on both a state and national level. Could someone change their vote? Absolutely, but in doing that they’ll have blacklisted themselves from their political party in the future. There have been random incidents of “faithless electors” happening in the past but in every case the change was symbolic and didn’t change the outcome of an election.
So in order for Hillary Clinton to still win, 37 people would have to vote for a democratic candidate so reviled by conservatives she couldn’t beat out one of the most vulnerable and controversial Republican nominees in American history. They would then go down as one of the biggest traitors in history to a party they’ve spent their lives working for.
That’s not going to happen.
All that to say, President-elect Trump will officially become the United States Commander-in-Chief when the Electoral College votes this Dec. 19. It’s time for us to accept that fact and ask the more important question: What does it mean for the church to be peacemakers in our horribly divided nation?