At noon on Monday, in the governor’s office at the state Capitol, nine Colorado Democrats will cast their Electoral College votes for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, sealing the decision by Colorado voters who gave the Biden/Harris ticket a 13-percentage point win over incumbent Republican President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
But the zeal of the electors for voting for Biden (or against Trump) is matched only by the zeal by some for getting rid of the institution upon which they’ve been elected to serve.
“I would love to put the nail in the coffin of the Trump presidency,” said at-large elector Polly Baca of Denver, a former state senator, and who on Monday, will be a four-time electoral college member.
Baca was one of three electors in 2016 termed “faithless electors” (or Hamilton electors, their preferred term) and who tried to cast ballots for someone other than 2016 Democratic nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It wasn’t because they didn’t support Clinton. It was because they had hoped to see enough votes peeled away from Trump to deny him the victory, given that Clinton had won the popular vote by nearly three million ballots. The lawsuit that followed went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, in a case combined with one from Washington State. The Court noted in its July ruling that when Americans cast ballots for presidential candidates, “their votes actually go toward selecting members of the Electoral College, whom each State appoints based on the popular returns.” The unanimous decision upheld the right of a state to enforce its pledge laws.
So it’s back to the system as it currently exists, but several electors believe the time has come to get rid of the Electoral College. That won’t stop them, however, from casting votes for Biden on Monday.
Baca told Colorado Politics that she believes in the vote, and trusts the American people as well as the national popular vote. “We should fulfill our democracy by allowing every single voter to vote their conscience, and that every vote should weigh equally.” Baca said that despite being an Electoral College member, she’s always opposed the Electoral College since it doesn’t always reflect the popular vote. But it will in 2020, she said, given that the Biden/Harris ticket won by seven million votes. That makes her comfortable voting for them.
So why oppose an institution of which she is a member? It’s all about putting a spotlight on the issue.
“What I’ve been trying to do is bring attention to the lack of democracy that the Electoral College represents,” Baca said. “It’s not consistent with our values as a democratic nation.” Being an elector gives Baca a voice, and if she weren’t a member, her voice wouldn’t count as much.
“And I get called by people like you,” she said.
Baca also addressed one issue that has become more prominent in this hyper-partisan era: threats. The state Democratic Party pulled the list of electors off its website, citing concerns about threats.
Baca said she hasn’t gotten threats but is concerned about demonstrations on Monday. She supports peaceful protests -- she’s participated in many over the years -- but she also worries about pro-Trump demonstrators who she said could be armed.
Alan Kennedy, the other at-large elector, says he will walk from his Capitol Hill home to the Capitol on Monday. He also said he hasn’t gotten threats, but said Republicans have disagreed with him, even hating him for a lot of reasons. Monday won’t be the first.
The first-time elector said he’s thrilled to cast his ballot for Biden and Harris. He decided to throw his hat into the ring because “the nation needs to relegate Donald Trump to the dustbin of history. These last four years have shown how delicate our democracy is,” Kennedy said, adding that the nation can’t survive another four years under Trump.
He also believes it's time to abolish the Electoral College. “We came horrifyingly close again to having a president win the Electoral College while losing the popular vote by millions of votes. That’s fundamentally undemocratic.” He said the Electoral College, too, is undemocratic and with racist origins. “It’s a reminder that we do not have a presidential election that adheres to one person, one vote.”
That said, Kennedy believes the Electoral College is the system in place for this election, so he feels an enormous responsibility to do everything possible to carry out the will of the voters in Colorado, and to ensure that Biden becomes president and Harris becomes vice president.
He also believes that because of the Electoral College, Trump repeatedly tried to unsuccessfully corrupt the process and steal the election in an effort to overturn the election results. That would be a lot more difficult to do, he added, if the nation went by a national popular vote and with some federal oversight over the presidential election process, although he doesn’t have any ideas on what that federal oversight would look like.
Kennedy, who teaches administrative law and about the Constitution as a doctoral candidate at CU-Denver, said his students have been very concerned about whether Trump could steal the election. “I feel confident in saying that Monday’s EC vote will put that to rest.”
The elector from Congressional District 3, who asked not to be identified by name prior to Monday's vote, said being an elector is a great honor. "I'm a strong Democrat and supporter of the Biden/Harris ticket, and would love, even in this ceremonial role, to do something to support that."
But she also believes the Electoral College should be abolished, calling it anti-Democratic (with a big D). "We already had a couple of elections in which people’s votes didn’t count, depending on where they lived. That’s unfair. One person’s vote should have the same weight as another."
The CD3 elector said she's also a little nervous about traveling, noting that it's the first time she's been to Denver since the pandemic began, and more concerned about that than how the Electoral College vote will go on Monday.
Nita Lynch is the member from Congressional District 1. She's also a first-time elector, although she's been a national delegate for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, both in 2016 and 2020. At first, she wanted to be an elector in hopes that Sanders would be the nominee. It would have been cool to cast an electoral vote for him, she said.
When Sanders dropped out, Lynch said she was disappointed but it didn't change her commitment to seeing a Democrat as president. By that time, the Supreme Court had also ruled on the faithless elector issue, and Lynch said she has no intention of going rogue.
Lynch said she also favors abolishing the Electoral College. "It doesn’t fit with our democratic values of all votes counting equally," she said. Lynch noted that under the current system, an Electoral College vote in Wyoming is worth three times as much as a vote in Texas or California or other large states. That type of system disenfranchises people, and "we already have low voting in our country," 2020 not withstanding, and disenfranchisement discourages people from voting, especially for republicans in Democratic states or vice versa. Lynch added that she was glad Proposition 113 passed in November, which officially put Colorado into the National Popular Vote compact.
As to threats, Lynch said she hasn't gotten any, but she also has been fairly quiet about being an Electoral College member. She said she told her family just three weeks ago that she's a member. "I'm glad I'm not in Georgia," she added.
"This isn't about me," Lynch said, or about the nine electors, most of whom are relatively unknown and just "grassroots normal people who got vote in by our congressional districts. It does make me feel good about Colorado."