The Electoral College is not going to stand in Donald Trump’s way.
I’ve seen chatter the last few days, both on political blogs and Facebook, that the voters of the Electoral College can, or even should, vote for Hillary Clinton instead of Donald Trump. (For example, here.) It’s a nice idea — it’s the way the Electoral College was intended to function, with a small group of people, selected by state, voting for who they thought would be best — but it’s not how it works now. (For that matter, that’s not how it’s worked since 1796.)
When we voted for President on Tuesday, though the ballot said Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump or Gary Johnson or Zoltan Istvan or Clifton Roberts or whomever, that’s not who we voted for. We actually voted for that candidate’s slate of Electors. Donald Trump’s Electors are Republican Party actors, just as Hillary Clinton’s Electors are Democratic Party actors. These are people who put party first, who were selected because they put party first. Trump’s Electors aren’t going to vote en masse for Clinton and vice versa.
That said, I can envision one scenario in which the Electors do vote for Clinton — if Trump himself made a public appeal to his Electors that they do so. Why would he do this? Maybe he wants to look magnanimous? Maybe he doesn’t want the job? Maybe he was just trolling us all? I don’t know. I can’t know; this isn’t a realistic scenario.
But I don’t know what would actually happen at that point. Such an event would be unprecedented in Americna history. There’s no guarantee that the Republican Electors would even do as Trump asked. They could still vote for Trump. They could vote for Mike Pence. They could vote for Paul Ryan. They could vote for Ronald Reagan’s dessicated, zombiefied corpse. The real mess would come if no one received 270 Electoral votes, because then the top three Electoral vote getters would have to fight it out in the House. I’m confident Clinton would not emerge from the House victorious due to the arcane rules the House would use and the make-up of the state delegations.
And even if Trump directed his Electors to vote for Clinton and she won under those circumstances, she’d face an extremely hostile Congress, to say nothing of Trump’s millions of supporters, who would feel that Trump betrayed them and Republican Party and that she stole what belonged to them through trickery and guile.
In short, Trump freeing his Electors to vote for Clinton would be a disaster.