The Hamilton Electors don't have enough Republicans to stop Trump — but they're getting there

The Hamilton Electors say they're getting closer than ever to stopping Donald Trump

Published December 16, 2016 4:10PM (EST)

Donald Trump; Alexander Hamilton   (Getty/Jeff Kowalsky/Wikimedia/Salon)
Donald Trump; Alexander Hamilton (Getty/Jeff Kowalsky/Wikimedia/Salon)

In 1776, there were 56 brave Americans who stood up to a tyrant despite the risk to their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. 240 years later, America faces another potential tyrant, President-elect Donald Trump, but this time it will only take 37 men to thwart him — out of the 306 Republican electors, that is.

The Hamilton Electors, a group led by Democrats with serious reservations about Trump, perceive that his improper relationship with Russia and numerous character flaws (such as his copious conflicts of interest) render him unfit for office.

They point to Alexander Hamilton's Federalist Paper No. 68, and are urging Republican electors to back a moderate Republican alternative who would promise to put country over party. If they succeed in peeling off enough Republican electors to deny Trump the 270 minimum he needs to automatically become president — that is, 37 out of 306 — the election will be sent to the House of Representatives, where one of the top three electoral vote recipients will have to be chosen by the states.

So how close are the Hamilton Electors?

"There have been three groups reaching out to Republicans," said Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig in a conference call on Thursday. "One of them is the one that I helped found, which is the Electors Trust, but the most active has been led by a guy named R. J. Lyman. R. J. Lyman was on CNN with me two afternoons ago. What he described is the process he's been going through reaching out to electors and in his judgment he identified 17 people who were seriously considering a vote of conscience. So that 17 is added to what could be up to 12 from the other two groups, but I've estimating it down."

When asked if there is any overlap between the two groups, Lessig said that he wasn't sure. Reports indicate that anywhere from 17 to 29 Republican electors are thinking of defecting — short of the 37 required to potentially stop Trump, but large enough to be promising for those hoping for such an outcome.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a professional writer whose work has appeared in multiple national media outlets since 2012 and exclusively at Salon since 2016. He specializes in covering science and history, and is particularly passionate about climate change, animal science, disability rights, plastic pollution and a wide range of political issues. He has interviewed many prominent figures (reflecting his diverse interests) including President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981), Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1999-2001), animal scientist and autism activist Temple Grandin, inventor Ernő Rubik, epidemiologist Monica Gandhi, theoretical cosmologist Janna Levin, mRNA vaccine pioneer Katalin Karikó, philosopher of science Vinciane Despret, actor George Takei ("Star Trek"), climatologist Michael E. Mann, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson (2012, 2016), actress Cady McClain ("All My Children"), Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman (2000), Ambassador Michael McFaul (2012-2014), economist Richard Wolff, director Kevin Greutert ("Saw VI"), model Liskula Cohen, actor Rodger Bumpass ("SpongeBob Squarepants"), Senator John Hickenlooper (2021-present), American Public Health Association Executive Director Georges Benjamin (2002-present), comedian Bill Burr ("F Is for Family"), novelist James Patterson ("The President's Daughter"), comedian David Cross ("Scary Movie 2") and right-wing insurrectionist Roger Stone.

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Donald Trump Hamilton Electors Lawrence Lessig