Strictly speaking, Donald Trump has not yet been elected president of the United States. That will officially happen on December 19, when the 538 members of the Electoral College assemble in their respective states to cast their votes.

As you likely know, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote on election night, garnering 2.3 million more votes than Trump did. But because she won some blue states by wide margins, and he squeaked out victories in several swing states, Trump is the presumptive winner of the Electoral College, with 306 votes to Clinton's 232.

But this is where things get interesting. In a last-ditch Never Trump effort, lawyers and activists from Colorado, Washington State and elsewhere, are mounting a final stand at the Electoral College level. Some say they will file legal challenges to the laws in 29 states that force electors (as Electoral College members are called) to vote for their parties' candidates. Others are proposing legislature to amend the Constitution and get rid of the Electoral College altogether, or trying to get more states to sign on to an agreement that they will abide by the popular vote. That will only work, though if states representing at least 270 Electoral College votes take part, and so far the states that have signed on total only 165 votes.

But those are long-term solutions to an institution that has failed twice in less than 20 years to align with the will of the majority of American voters. (The last time this happened was in 2000 when Al Gore won the popular vote.) So anti-Trump forces desperate to keep him out of office are also trying a different tactic--lobbying Republican electors to vote for someone other than him. Because of his strong Electoral College lead, for this approach to work, 37 of them would have to change their votes.

'I hope you die.'

Who are these electors? For the most part, ordinary citizens who've been chosen by their parties to take part in the Electoral College as an honor and often as a reward for service to the party. Some of them are doubtless wishing they could give that reward back, as they come in for intense scrutiny--and more--from both Trump lovers and Trump haters.

In Texas, an elector named Art Sisneros is set to vote as a Republican in the Electoral College but says he just can't bring himself to vote for Trump. So he's decided to resign. The local party chair thinks that's the right thing to do, and says he's already making arrangements to replace Sisneros with a different Republican. Nevertheless, Trump supporters have gone ballistic, leveling threats at his family members.

Meanwhile, in Michigan, a state that is casting its electoral votes for Trump but was expected to be part of Clinton's "firewall," a college student and elector named Michael Banerian has come in for similar treatment from Clinton supporters.

"I have been inundated with death threats, death wishes, generally angry messages trying to get me to change my vote to Hillary Clinton or another person, and unfortunately, it's gotten a little out of control," he told CNN. He's gotten such messages as, "I hope you die," suggestions that he put a bullet in the back of his mouth, or "do society a favor and throw yourself in front of a bus."

Admittedly, we live in a society where death threats are the norm for anyone with even a slightly high profile--I even got one after something I wrote went viral. But what makes the threats against Banerian especially absurd is that he couldn't change his vote even if he wanted to, Michigan being one of the 29 states that legally requires electors to vote for their party's candidate. Banerian says he doesn't want to vote for anyone but Trump. But if he tried, "I would be removed and replaced by another elector," he says. "It's a pointless endeavor."

Speaking of pointless endeavors, in a further plot twist, 2016 Green Party candidate Jill Stein has petitioned for a recount in Wisconsin (which says it will comply) and is expected to petition for recounts in Pennsylvania and Michigan as well. All three would need to flip to Clinton to change the results of the election, though. And if that happened, Trump would likely challenge the recounts in court.

It all comes down to this: That awful election cycle you thought would never end? It's not quite over yet.

Published on: Nov 30, 2016
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