Opinion: Vote recounts and the Electoral College

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What do Jill Stein and an elector from Texas have in common? They are all playing a role in continuing the political whirlwind that was the presidential election of 2016.

It has been more than a month since Trump shocked the country, coming out victorious over Hillary Clinton in the general election. But that does not mean the future of the White House is set in stone, even though the Electoral College will meet on Dec. 19 to formalize the results.

In fact, the past weeks have proven, time and time again, that virtually nothing in politics will go as expected when Trump is involved.

To begin, the results of the Nov. 8 election are yet to be settled in three battleground states. Recount efforts are underway in Michigan and Wisconsin, after the vote in these states was challenged by Green Party Candidate Jill Stein. Stein also challenged the results of Pennsylvania’s election; on Monday, a judge in the state will decide whether a recount there will go forward.

For Americans who did not support Trump in the election, Stein may seem like the hero our nation never expected. However, those who continue to stand against the president-elect should not be so quick as to praise Stein. The vote recounts are a labor intensive, time consuming process that are not likely to change the result of the election come Dec. 19.

The lead Trump had over Clinton was certainly narrow in all three states – but an extremely large margin of error would still have to be overcome in order to change the results in Clinton’s favor. For this to occur in all three states, as would be necessary for Clinton to be declared the victor, there would have to be some evidence that the vote in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania were extensively tampered with.

Therefore, the recount efforts are essentially long-shots – which may explain why Clinton has thus far participated in them only passively.

That does not mean, however, that those against Trump have given up hope. They see another path toward preventing Trump from taking office, with the help of the Electoral College.

Following the announcement that Texas elector Christopher Suprun will be breaking his legal pledge to back Trump, and will instead be voting with his conscience, some are hoping that others will do the same.

But if the vote recounts are a long-shot, this last-ditch effort is like trying to hit the moon with a rock fired from a sling shot. Thirty-seven electors would have to go against their pledge. Even if this were to happen, it is unlikely that they would vote for Clinton instead. Rather, the case would likely be that no candidate would reach the magic number of 270 electoral votes required to win the presidency. Congress, then, would determine the outcome of the election – and possibly end up electing Trump anyway.

Which means that, no matter how deeply you feel that Trump should not be our next president – because he didn’t actually win the popular vote, is putting together a cabinet with climate-change deniers and alt-right icons, or continues to spread hatred and falsehoods – it in all likelihood will be something you just have to accept.

Elections are an essential aspect of democracy, as is accepting the results of an election even when it does not turn out the way you hoped. Americans must accept, with joy or with grief, that Trump will be the 45th president. But with acceptance should not come silence.

Democracy is strong when its elected officials are not delegitimized. And America will continue to be strong under Trump, so long as those who support him and those that do not demand that he does his job the way he is supposed to – with the interests of all Americans at heart.

Now is not the time for long-shots and last ditch efforts. It is the time to be more vigilant of our elected officials, and to remember that we all have a constitutional right and duty to keep them in check.

Contact CU Independent Opinion Editor Emily McPeak at emily.mcpeak@colorado.edu.


Emily McPeak

Emily McPeak is an undergraduate student who writes about society and politics. She is studying journalism and political science.

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