TOPEKA — They are known as the faithless electors — members of the Electoral College who disregard their state’s popular vote — and you won’t find any in Kansas.
On Dec. 5, Republican elector Christopher Suprun, Texas, announced he wouldn’t cast his electoral vote for President-elect Donald Trump, despite Trump’s popular-vote victory in Texas. In November, another Texas Republican resigned from the Electoral College to avoid casting a vote for Trump — an action he said “would bring dishonor to God.”
The 538 electors of the Electoral College will meet in state capitals Dec. 19 to formally cast their votes for president and vice president. The process is largely a formality; faithless electors never have shifted the results of a presidential election.
Trump, a Republican, won the popular vote in Kansas on Nov. 8. As a result, the state’s six electors, all longtime members of the Republican Party, will cast their votes for Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence.
There is no federal law, state law or constitutional provision that requires them to do so. As a result, Trump’s critics have tried to persuade electors in Kansas and elsewhere to vote for someone else, denying him the 270 electoral votes he needs to be elected president. It is a last-ditch, long shot effort certain to fail.
Half of the Kansas electors are high-ranking members of the Kansas Republican Party: executive director Clay Barker, chairman Kelly Arnold and vice chair Ashley McMillan. The others are Kansas Treasurer Ron Estes, former state Rep. Mark Kahrs, Wichita, and Helen Van Etten, a member of the Kansas Board of Regents and chief audiologist for Topeka USD 501.
“We are all going to be voting for Trump. We will have six electoral votes for Trump,” Van Etten said.
Kahrs and Van Etten are the national committeeman and committeewoman for the Kansas Republican Party.
During an interview Friday at the treasurer’s office, Estes made it clear he will vote for Trump and that he expects his fellow Kansas electors will do the same.
“The people of Kansas voted overwhelmingly for President-elect Trump to be president, so I think we should represent that. That’s why I plan to vote for him,” Estes said.
Estes said his office has received more than 89,000 emails requesting he vote for someone other than Trump, along with handwritten and typed letters and a few phone calls. Electors in other states also are being bombarded, he said.
“Most of them are just saying either Hillary Clinton won the popular vote so you should vote for her or making the claim that President Trump’s not fit for office so you should vote for some other Republican,” Estes said.
Arnold and Van Etten also were electors in 2012, when the state’s six electoral votes went to Mitt Romney. Also casting votes that year were former U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer.
Estes’ wife was a presidential elector during the narrow 2000 race and received many of the same requests her husband received this year, though most came through phone calls and letters, not email. Van Etten said she received emails in 2012 attempting to persuade her to vote for President Barack Obama, but it was nothing compared to the outpouring she has received this year.
“I don’t know why they even think there would be a chance of convincing the electors,” she said.
Barker, Arnold, McMillan and Kahrs all previously have said they will cast their electoral votes for Trump.
Of the more than 150 instances of faithless electors in American history, none were in Kansas.
Suprun, the Texas elector who is voting for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, will be the first faithless elector since 2000. That year, Barbara Lett-Simmons, Washington, D.C., cast no electoral vote in protest of Washington’s lack of votes in Congress.
The most high-profile case of faithless electors occurred in 1836, when all 23 electors from Virginia refused to cast their votes for Vice President-elect Richard Johnson because of his relationship with a slave mistress. Johnson then lacked the necessary votes to become vice president, sending the race to the Senate, which elected him anyway.
In 1976, elector Mike Padden, Washington, was pledged to vote for Gerald Ford and Bob Dole. Though he switched his presidential vote to Ronald Reagan, he still cast his vice presidential vote for Dole, then a U.S. senator from Kansas.
In 1972, elector Roger MacBride, Virginia, cast his votes for Libertarian candidates John Hospers and Tonie Nathan rather than the Republican candidates for whom he was pledged to vote. As a result, Nathan became the first woman to receive an Electoral College vote.