U.S. Electoral College Votes on Trump Under Pressure of Russia Allegations

Washington, Members of the U.S. Electoral College will cast their votes for president on Monday as pressure from Clinton supporters to deny Trump the presidency has grown after allegations of Russian interference in the U.S. election.

Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump by 2.5 million votes nationwide on Nov. 8. But the U.S. president is not chosen by a national popular vote.

Instead the U.S. presidential election is really 50 separate state elections. The candidate that wins a state’s popular vote is awarded a number of electors based on population size.

These are actual persons who vote for president on behalf of the people. They are going to their state capitals on Monday to cast that vote. There are 538 electors and a candidate must get 270 electoral votes to be elected president. Based on each state’s vote, Trump won the Electoral College 306 to 232.

In 28 states, the electors are bound by law to vote for the candidate that got the most votes in his or her state. However, 22 states do not bind their electors to vote according to the popular vote of their state. That means they can vote any way they want to.

The Clinton campaign has used news reports quoting unnamed Central Intelligence Agency officials saying that Russia interfered with the election to lobby electors to change their vote from Trump to Clinton. The CIA has not provided any evidence to back up its claims of Russian hacking into Democratic Party emails that revealed embarrassing details about Clinton and her campaign.

The Clinton camp needs 38 Republican electors to flip their vote on Monday to give Clinton the White House. Democratic lawyers have offered free legal advice to electors in states where it is illegal to change their votes. The penalty is usually a $1,000 fine.

Clinton supporters in the campaign, in the media and among the population have been lobbying the electors hard, appealing to their patriotism to defend the American system against the supposed interference of a foreign power. It would be hard to prove that the details released in the emails published by Wikileaks, which the CIA says were given to it by Russian hackers, were the deciding factor in Clinton’s Nov. 8 loss.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has denied that Russia gave him the emails. Craig Murray, a former British diplomat and Wikileaks consultant, said the emails were not hacked but leaked on a thumb drive and that he has met the leaker, who Murray says is an American inside the Democratic Party.

Clinton was seen as too close to Wall Street and uncaring about declining incomes of workers the traditional Democratic Party base. She lost the election in three formerly heavily industrial states, which have lost millions of jobs that were shipped to cheaper labor markets overseas.

It is considered a long shot for Clinton to get 38 electors to change their vote. That would mean Trump would have officially won the Electoral College. However there is one more chance for Clinton to try to overturn the election.

On Jan. 6, the Congress meets to certify the election result. At that time, one Senator and one Representative can sign an objection, probably blaming alleged Russian interference. That would mean both the Senate and the House of Representatives would then vote on the objection. If it were upheld, Trump would have his victory vacated.

However, Clinton would still not have the required 270 electoral votes. In that case, the 2016 presidential election would be turned over to the House of Representatives for a majority vote to determine who among the top three national vote getters: Clinton, Trump and Libertarian Gary Johnson would become president. Though the House is dominated by Republican members, many Republican Representatives oppose Trump.

The House has decided a presidential election only two times before. In 1800, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr tied with 73 electoral votes each. After 36 ballots over six days, the House chose Jefferson as the third president. In the 1824 election, Andrew Jackson received 99 electoral votes, 32 short of a majority, to John Quincy Adams’ 85, but the House chose Adams.

Source: Qatar News Agency