Republicans tried to flip Electoral College voters too — look at 2008
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Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSteele Dossier sub-source was subject of FBI counterintelligence probe Pelosi slams Trump executive order on pre-existing conditions: It 'isn't worth the paper it's signed on' Trump 'no longer angry' at Romney because of Supreme Court stance MORE’s Electoral College victory on Nov. 8 will likely go down as one of the largest political surprises in American history. Although I wrote about its possibility and potential fallout a week before the election, few others saw it coming and many have not yet accepted it as reality. Consequently, efforts to upend November's results have popped up on a variety of fronts.

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Within days of the election, a petition requesting Republican members of the Electoral College cast their votes for Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFox News poll: Biden ahead of Trump in Nevada, Pennsylvania and Ohio Trump, Biden court Black business owners in final election sprint The power of incumbency: How Trump is using the Oval Office to win reelection MORE, rather than Donald Trump, was circulated online.

 

Nearly 5 million people have now signed it. Several members of the Electoral College, calling themselves “Hamilton Electors,” have made it their mission to lobby Republican electors to support an alternative to Trump (e.g., Mitt Romney or John Kasich).

Many Trump supporters wonder why opponents simply cannot accept the outcome of the election, associating efforts to change the result with sore losers, whiners, and jobless troublemakers. They contend that in 2008, opponents of President Obama did not engage in such hijinks by trying to upend the election through unconventional means. Closer inspection proves otherwise.  

In 2008, a concentrated effort to lobby the Electoral College took place out of the public’s eye.

My research on the Electoral College reveals that 8 in 10 electors were lobbied to change their votes in 2008. There would seem to be little to protest when your candidate loses by nearly 100 Electoral College votes and 10 million votes across the country.

Conversely, the popular-electoral vote split this fall has provided fodder for some of the tumult aimed at overturning November's results by appealing to members of the Electoral College. No such rift existed in 2008 and yet members of that assemblage were targets of a lobbying campaign like the one we are seeing today.   

Electoral College lobbyists in 2008 argued that Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama warns of a 'decade of unfair, partisan gerrymandering' in call to look at down-ballot races Quinnipiac polls show Trump leading Biden in Texas, deadlocked race in Ohio Poll: Trump opens up 6-point lead over Biden in Iowa MORE was literally not qualified to be POTUS because he was not born in the United States. That’s right, the same birtherism that Donald Trump claimed Hillary Clinton started and he finished was the focal point for pleas to alter the outcome of the 2008 election.   

In my survey of the 2000 Electoral College, it was clear that many electors were subjected to an intense lobbying campaign, much like the one that has taken shape this year.

Most were asked to honor the popular vote over the electoral vote. In subsequent surveys, I began directly asking whether electors had been contacted to change their votes and to my surprise, it has happened with surprising frequency.

In 2004, nearly 40 percent of Republican electors were contacted to change their votes and a majority of all electors were lobbied in 2012. In 2008, however, 91 percent of Democratic electors were lobbied to change their votes! Recall that the 2008 election was not particularly close or contested by the losing ticket.

This was puzzling given Obama’s convincing victory, until I read comments from electors themselves.

Electors revealed they were contacted by those questioning the president-elect’s nationality. They were deluged with letters asking them to exercise their judgment and uphold the Constitution. Several electors shared their correspondence with me. One letter with thousands of “signatories” concludes by stating that:

“All Americans should have confidence their president is eligible to serve. In this unique and historic case, you may prove to be the Constitution’s last line of defense.”

Just as today’s Electoral College lobbyists are asking electors to use their discernment, members of the 2008 class were asked to do the same.

A significant audience for potential defections existed in the Electoral College as 8 percent of Democratic electors and nearly 20 percent of Republican electors considered voting faithlessly in 2008. This stealthy campaign has gone largely unnoticed and is worth revisiting given the current campaign to alter November’s outcome.  

In writings elsewhere, I presaged the likelihood of this year’s Electoral College lobbying campaign prior to its commencement. What is surprising is not that such a campaign has emerged in a closely contested election, but that they have also occurred in undisputed elections and outside the public’s eye.

No electors in 2008 were moved by the birther campaign to go rogue and it is unlikely the Hamilton electors will entice Republican electors to stop Trump in the Electoral College. So while Republicans did not take to the streets en masse in 2008, thousands did appeal to electors in hopes of undoing the results of the election.

To suggest Republicans willingly accepted the results of the election in 2008 is to deny the concerted effort to block Obama in the Electoral College behind the scenes.  

Robert Alexander is Professor of Political Science at Ohio Northern University and author of “Presidential Electors and the Electoral College: An Examination of Lobbying, Wavering Electors, and Campaigns for Faithless Votes.”


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