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Why Michigan law makes it nearly impossible for electors to defect

Dec 19, 2016

Electors gathered today at their state capitols to formalize Donald Trump's election to the presidency. As expected, Michigan's 16 electors cast their votes for Donald Trump.

In the days leading up to today's vote, however, electors endured intense pressure from people around the country to vote against the President-Elect.

“They’ve been getting letters, lots of them, in the mail and emails,” said Detroit News Lansing reporter Chad Livengood. “One elector I talked to – Wyckham Seelig from the Ann Arbor area – he got over 62,000 emails over the last five weeks from people across the country trying to get him to change his vote and buck Donald Trump.”

Livengood joined Stateside today from the Capitol where he said a couple hundred protesters were gathered outside in the seven-degree weather.

He said some electors, like Oakland University student Michael Banerian, even received implied death threats.

"Michigan law specifically says that [electors] basically resign their position if they try to vote for somebody other than the person they are nominated to vote for."

But this response to this year’s meeting of the electoral college is anything but typical. Livengood said usually the meeting is a “pretty perfunctory procedure.”

In fact, Michigan law makes it next to impossible for electors to change their votes.

“Michigan law specifically says that they basically resign their position if they try to vote for somebody other than the person they are nominated to vote for,” Livengood said. “And then, from there, the other 15 electors would be able to appoint a replacement. So, you effectively are required to vote for Donald Trump if you are a Donald Trump elector.”

In the unlikely scenario that enough Donald Trump electors across the country don’t vote for the President-elect, Livengood said a “constitutional crisis” would effectively ensue, requiring the Republican-controlled House to pick a president.

For more, including Livengood’s thoughts on leaving the Capitol and the Detroit News to cover Detroit for Crain’s Detroit Business, listen above.

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