Even though their chances of success are slim, many Democrats are looking at the Electoral College vote Monday as the last barrier to keep Republican Donald Trump out of the White House.
When US voters cast their ballots on November 8, they did not directly elect the next president but rather 538 “electors” charged with translating their wishes into reality.
Trump won a clear majority of those electors — 306, with 270 needed for election — despite losing the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton by nearly three million votes.
On Monday the electors – most of whom are party members with little name recognition – will convene in each state plus the District of Columbia to officially designate the next president and vice president.
Following an extraordinarily vitriolic campaign, this step in the electoral process, which is normally a mere formality, has been thrust into the spotlight.
To prevent Trump from becoming president, Democratic activists must convince at least 37 Republican electors to abandon their candidate.
One Texas Republican elector, Christopher Suprun, has publicly said that he will not vote for Trump.
Trump “shows daily he is not qualified for the office,” Suprun wrote in The New York Times in early December.
“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,” Suprun wrote.
An online petition calling on electors to reject Trump has collected some five million supporters. Hollywood stars including Martin Sheen (“President Bartlet” on the TV series “West Wing”) recently released a video to goad electors to dump Trump.
If Trump were to lose the electoral college vote it would be up to the House of Representatives – controlled by Republicans – to designate the successor to President Barack Obama.
But there is no evidence that enough Republican electors will abandon Trump.
The final vote result may not be known on Monday, as states are given several days to report their numbers. Congress will announce the name of the winner on January 6, two weeks before the next president is to be inaugurated.