The Austin Chronicle

Hoping for an Electoral College Miracle

By Sarah Marloff, December 16, 2016, 9:20am, Newsdesk

The Texas State Capitol will be awash with rallies Monday when the state’s 38 representatives of the Electoral College arrive in town to cast their votes for the country’s 45th president. At least a half dozen demonstrations are planned for the Capitol grounds on Sunday (Dec. 18) and Monday (Dec. 19) in anticipation of the vote.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a grassroots organization working to strengthen progressive power in politics and economics, has decided to help fund the protests after surveying their one million members, 50,000 of whom call Texas home. The committee said that 91% of its membership “overwhelmingly agreed” with the decision to fund the rallies, though the amount of money funneled into Monday’s demonstrations has not yet been released, according to PCCC Press Secretary Kait Sweeney.

“The majority want to use these protests to remind the public that [Donald] Trump lost the popular vote,” Sweeney wrote in an email. “As the largest national group to get involved, we're providing significant support, engagement, fundraising, and other resources for the protests." In their planning efforts, PCCC has collaborated with other coalitions including Democracy Spring, Americans Take Action, Hamilton Electors, and Daniel Brezenoff, founder of a petition that asks Electors to "protect the Constitution," and "support the national popular vote winner."

Trump’s win on Nov. 8 has ignited great concern among many liberals, queers, people of color, and moderate conservatives who fear harsh progressive cutbacks. Climate change issues will likely be dismissed under proposed Energy Secretary and former Texas Governor Rick Perry. Tom Price – Trump’s pick for Secretary of Health and Human Services – has opposed the Affordable Care Act since its inception, the dismantling of which has already been identified as one of the first orders of business come inauguration. Vice President-elect Mike Pence has been a career-long crusader against the LGBTQ community and women’s right to choose. In 2015, as governor of Indiana, Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to legalize LGBTQ discrimination for religious purposes. He’s also been accused of supporting gay conversion therapy (designed to “make” LGBTQ people straight), though his spokesman denied the soon-to-be VP’s support of the discredited practice in an interview with The New York Times.

Concerned citizens have spent the past month imploring Electoral College voters to cast ballots for Hillary Clinton, a Republican who is not Trump, or to abstain from voting altogether. Brezenoff’s petition has become the largest in the website’s history, amassing more than 4.8 million signatures. A small victory came two weeks ago when Texas Republican Elector Christopher Suprun announced via an op-ed in The New York Times that he will not use his vote on Trump, and asked that his Electoral colleagues do the same.

“I am asked to cast a vote on Dec. 19 for someone who shows daily he is not qualified for the office,” wrote Suprun. “The election of the next president is not yet a done deal. Electors of conscience can still do the right thing for the good of the country. Presidential Electors have the legal right and a constitutional duty to vote their conscience.” On Wednesday, The Independent reported that 20-30 additional Electors are debating whether or not to give their vote to Trump. According to RISE UP USA’s Facebook event page for a two-day long demonstration, “only [37] Electors across the entire country have to abstain or change their vote, and [Trump] will not have the 270 required to become president. Texas alone has 38 Electors.”

While Trump won the electoral vote 306 to 232, his Democratic opponent has held a clear lead in the popular vote, with her current total trumping Trump’s by more than 2.8 million. Last week’s news that the CIA believes the Russian government tampered with the election in an effort to help aid Trump has only ratcheted up calls for the EC to bar the businessman from office.

“We're looking to remind the public that Trump lost the popular vote by almost 3 million and eked out a win in battleground states in part thanks to Russia hacking our democracy and massive voter suppression,” said Sweeney. “It should be patently ridiculous when Trump claims a mandate for an authoritarian, anti-worker, right-wing agenda. Additionally, these protests will stiffen Democratic spine[s] to fight against Trump and Republicans claiming a mandate to ram through millions of dollars of corporate giveaways or gut the social safety net. There is real grassroots energy for a powerful show of force on Dec. 19. Thousands have signed up to participate nationwide, including robust turnout for the Austin protest.”

PCCC’s Austin event has been titled “TX Electoral College Public Proceedings – It’s Your Right to Join,” and begins at 9am on Monday. According to a spokesperson for the Hamilton Electors, the group is explicitly not organizing a protest – but rather an event to "support the Electors."

"We will have speakers and singing and signs. We will make sure to be visible from all Capitol entrances so that Electors arriving cannot miss us."

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