For diehard Democrats holding out hope that they won’t have to live through a Donald Trump presidency, there is a last, incredibly long shot for them latch onto — a surprise twist in the Electoral College.
Though Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 200,000, Trump has won the minimum of 270 electoral votes necessary to be elected president. As of late Wednesday, he had 290 to Clinton’s 228.
According to the Constitution, chosen electors of the Electoral College are the real people who will vote for president, when they meet on Dec. 19 in their respective state capitals.
However, there is nothing stopping any of the electors from refusing to support the candidate to whom they were bound or abstaining from voting.
There’s even a name for it: becoming a “faithless elector.”
Although the idea of the electors trying to reverse the vote is occasionally discussed — such as after the incredibly close 2000 election in which George W. Bush narrowly beat Al Gore — going “faithless” is exceedingly rare.
More than 99 percent of electors throughout American history have voted as pledged, according to an analysis by the New York Times.
The last faithless elector reared his roguish head back in 2004, when a lone anonymous voter in Minnesota declined to vote for Democrat John Kerry and instead voted for Kerry’s running mate, John Edwards.
The rogue’s vote was purely ceremonial, as Bush already had 286 electoral votes ensuring his re-election.
Faithless electors are barred in only 29 states from ignoring the will of the voters, though the penalties are light. And a faithless elector has never swung an election.
The Founding Fathers created the Electoral College because they were actually “afraid of direct democracy,” according to FactCheck.org.
In fact, Alexander Hamilton thought the electors would make sure that “the office of president will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”
This video, produced before the election, explains how and why the Electoral College works: