DENVER – A federal judge dealt a severe setback Monday to a longshot plan to deny Donald Trump the presidency through the Electoral College, refusing to suspend a Colorado law requiring the state’s nine electors to vote for the presidential candidate who won the state in November.
U.S. District Judge Wiley Daniel denied a request by two Colorado electors who contended that the law binding their vote to Colorado vote winner Hillary Clinton violated their First Amendment rights and the intents of the Constitution’s framers. The electors had sought the right to vote for someone other than Clinton in order to unite behind a consensus Republican other than Trump when the Electoral College convenes on Dec. 19.
Daniel found that suspending the Colorado requirement would have harmed the state’s voters and jeopardized a peaceful presidential transition. “Part of me thinks this is really a political stunt to prevent Donald Trump from becoming president,” said Daniel, who was nominated to the bench by Bill Clinton in 1995.
If the Colorado electors had been successful, it could have signaled that similar laws in more than two dozen other states could also be overturned, freeing a large number of electors to defect from Trump. Jason Wesoky, who represents the two electors, said he may seek an emergency appeal to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals – the only chance his clients would have of blocking the Colorado law before they have to cast their votes.
Should the Colorado electors be freed, some of them hoped to persuade enough of their counterparts elsewhere to unite behind a Republican alternative like Mitt Romney. So far only one Republican elector has announced he won’t vote for Trump. The president-elect won 306 electors last month to Clinton’s 232.
An attorney for Trump filed legal papers Monday arguing a suspension of Colorado’s law could have sweeping consequences. “This is very serious stuff,” attorney Christopher Murray, who also represented the Colorado Republican Party, said in court. “If you vote as a free agent in the Electoral College, you’re taking Colorado voters’ voices away.”
An attorney for the state noted that Colorado’s ballot lists only the names of presidential contenders, not electors.
Wesoky had argued that voters didn’t choose a president on Nov. 8, only electors who had the right to vote their conscience.
Jerad Sutton, an elector who is not one of the plaintiffs but also wants to vote for someone other than Clinton if it will block a Trump presidency, said he was disappointed with Monday’s result. “If people vote for president, Hillary Clinton would be president,” Sutton said, noting the Democrat won the popular vote. “If you believe this Electoral College exists, those are the people who choose the president.”