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Can the Electoral College Trump Trump?

Could this election get any weirder? You bet it could! What makes this totally ironic is that it is completely constitutional, while being downright bizarre.

Even if (more likely when) Donald Trump becomes the GOP nominee for president, and even if (god forbid) he can win a clear majority of the popular vote, there is a way that he could be denied the presidency. Yup, by the Electoral College.

In fact, people like Trump are pretty much the reason the founders created the Electoral College. They simply did not trust the people to elect the president. They worried that “a popular election … is radically vicious” and that the people “being too little informed of personal characters” are “liable to deceptions“. Sound familiar?

Instead, each state appoints “electors”, who meet and elect the president. According to the constitution each state appoints its electors “in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct”. Some, but not all, states have laws that require their electors to vote for the person who got the largest share of the popular vote in that state. But such laws can be easily changed.

So here’s an example of what could happen. The Texas legislature (controlled by Republicans) could vote to take back the power to pick its electors. Then, on Election Day, they would pick electors who would vote for their chosen candidate. The candidate could be anyone: Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Condoleezza Rice, or even (yikes) Ted Cruz. It doesn’t have to be someone even running for president because of what happens in the next step. Let’s say they pick Condoleezza Rice.

The constitution does require a candidate to receive a majority of votes in the Electoral College. Without the votes of the 38 electors from Texas, it is virtually certain that nobody will get a majority, and the constitution stipulates that in that case, the House of Representatives picks the president from the top three electoral vote-getters. Condoleezza Rice is the third highest vote-getter, so the (Republican controlled House) picks her. She becomes president.

Note that it doesn’t matter if Trump wins the popular vote. It doesn’t even matter if the Democratic nominee (e.g., Clinton) wins the popular vote. The GOP just needs a small number of states whose legislatures they control to change the way they pick electors, and then the Republicans in the House to privately agree on who they want to elect. Done.

Would all hell break loose? Of course. But it is completely constitutional, and there is precedent for states taking back control of how they appoint electors, and even blessing from the Supreme Court for doing so.

Consider it the ultimate “nuclear option”. And more foolproof than a brokered convention.

So the Republicans can do it. Would they? Would a party that shuts down the government in order to get their way even blink? And we would have nobody to blame but ourselves, because we elected these people.

Kevin Siers
© Kevin Siers



  1. Ravilyn Sanders wrote:

    How can Texas alone or a few red states alone can deny majority? The red states voted against Obama and he became the president, didn’t he? If this option was available they would have pulled it in 2000 definitely.

    All the red states controlled by Republican legislatures should cotton on to this plan, to pull it off. But there is the National Popular Vote campaign. Other states can award all their electoral votes to national popular vote winner. The way that law is written, the moment enough states to get 272 electoral votes pass the National Pouplar Vote compact, it automatically becomes law in the states that have already passed it. That gun has been already primed with some 140 electoral votes. If a few blue states join, all the small states lose ALL their power.

    Of course the danger is, if somehow the general election is messed up, and the election ends up in the house of representatives, they will elect a hard right candidate. But if they try that riots will break out, and could Obama declare martial law and give himself another four years?

    Saturday, March 19, 2016 at 6:37 am | Permalink
  2. Ravilyn Sanders wrote:

    OK. It is impossible for any *Republican* to win *now* to win the White House without Texas. Democrats can.

    They don’t have to go this far to stop Trump. State Republican parties can unbind their electors to the Republican National Convention. The electors can be persuaded to switch their vote to someone else. They can even disqualify the current slate of Trump delegates and reinstate a bunch of party hacks who will do as they are told. This can be done without bringing any Democrats into the picture. State legislatures, even in red states, have blue legislators. So if they want to mess with Trump they will mess with the delegates and the nomination process. Not with electoral college electors.

    Saturday, March 19, 2016 at 6:43 am | Permalink
  3. Yudith wrote:

    Is it me or does Condoleeza Rice sounds more and more like a good presidential candidate?

    Saturday, March 19, 2016 at 8:30 am | Permalink
  4. Iron Knee wrote:

    Yudith, other than being a black, female version of Bush? Not really.

    Notice how I didn’t mention which Bush.

    Saturday, March 19, 2016 at 10:51 am | Permalink
  5. Ralph wrote:

    I’ve always said we should have been more encouraging when Texas threatened secession from the Union. Besides our shedding the likes of Cruz and Goober, I mean Gohmert, The Treasury would save money (they take more benefits than pay in taxes), we’d have half as many unregistered guns to worry about (though at least they’re 1000 miles away from most civilization), they could shut down the last four PP centers pronto (and just dispense cheap wire coat hangers instead), and the Trump Wall would only need to be half as long. It’s a win-win-win-win-win! We’d win so much we’d be tired of winning. But I Trump myself.

    Saturday, March 19, 2016 at 10:52 am | Permalink
  6. Ravilyn Sanders wrote:


    It is only you.

    Saturday, March 19, 2016 at 12:55 pm | Permalink
  7. ebdoug wrote:

    Condoleeza Rice is much more intelligent than any Bush.

    That said, I can never forgive her for not covering her legs when in Muslim countries. I was embarrassed for my whole country when she exposed herself so much. “When in Rome…..”

    Saturday, March 19, 2016 at 7:37 pm | Permalink
  8. BTN wrote:

    IK, in the articles you quoted, there wasn’t universal agreement on the election mode. Madison was for a popolar vote election and against a legisaltive appointment because of “general influence of that mode on the independence of the Executive” and that it would “agitate & divide the legislature so much that the public interest would materially suffer by it. Public bodies are always apt to be thrown into contentions, but into more violent ones by such occasions.” The President would be beholden to the legsilative leaders who would violently fight to get their candidat in office.

    Ralph, so we let Texas be a separate country. Then the US can invade them and “take the oil” just like conservatives often support.

    Saturday, March 26, 2016 at 8:57 am | Permalink