One of the "faithless electors" at the heart of a coming Supreme Court casesays he's "thrilled" that the high court will take on the issue and has no regrets about how he cast his Electoral College vote for president — even though it went against the wishes of his state's voters.
Weeks after the 2016 election, Micheal Baca, then a member of the Electoral College in Colorado, tried to cast his presidential ballot for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican. even though Democrat Hillary Clinton won the state's popular vote over Donald Trump.
That decision — a violation of a law in Colorado (and in 29 other states) requiring electors to cast their votes in accordance with the results of the popular vote — triggered the legal avalanche that has now gone all the way to the Supreme Court after the justices agreed last week to hear the case.
Four years later, Baca, 27, a government teacher at a Las Vegas high school, isn't looking back — and he's rooting for the high court to grant all Electoral College members "total elector freedom."
"One of the purposes of the Electoral College is to prevent a demagogue from taking office," Baca said, referring to one of Andrew Hamilton's contributions to the Federalist Papers."And that's what I tried to do."
Baca, a registered Democrat and a supporter (then and now) of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said he cast his ballot for Kasich as part of an eccentric — and unsuccessful — scheme to prevent Trump from getting the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win.
"It would have been an honor to vote for Clinton, but voting for her would not have prevented a Trump presidency," he said. "I just felt like I had to do everything I could to prevent that from happening."
Clinton won Colorado's popular vote over Trump, 48 percent to 43 percent, with a margin of over 135,000 votes.
He said the decision to betray the voters' will was part of a broader effort that he dubbed the "Hamilton Electors movement."
Baca, in the weeks before the December 2016 Electoral College elections (electors in all states meet in their state capitals to cast their ballots), had gotten in touch with dozens of other electors, hoping to find at least 37 Republicans willing to cast their ballots for someone other than Trump.
Had he been able to, he said, both Trump and Clinton would have been short of 270. In that scenario, the House of Representatives would then have elected the president, choosing from the three candidates who got the most electoral votes.
"I thought this plan would give Colorado voters a better deal," Baca said. "They didn't want Trump. They wanted anybody but Trump. I thought that if it got kicked to the House and they picked a more moderate Republican, it would have been good for Colorado voters."
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In the end, Colorado's secretary of state threw out Baca's vote and immediately replaced him with another elector, who voted for Clinton. Only a handful of other faithless electors joined Baca, including three in Washington state (where Clinton won the popular vote) who cast ballots for Colin Powell.
Washington accepted the votes of its faithless electors but fined them for violating a state law requiring them to conform to the popular vote. The electors challenged the fines, but the state Supreme Court upheld the law.
In Colorado, however, Baca sued in federal court, and the case eventually reached the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, which ruled that electors can vote for any legitimate candidate.
Faithless electors have not been much of an issue in U.S. political history. But in an election that could be decided by a razor-thin margin in the Electoral College, a small handful of faithless electors could sway a presidential race — which many legal scholars say is good cause for the Supreme Court to weigh in.
The case has also brought attention to a related issue: How does someone become a member of the Electoral College?
While former presidentsand local elected officials have been electors in recent election years, so have cleaning women, union officials and average joes like Baca, a former Marine who also worked as a flight attendant and an Uber driver.
Baca was approached by local officials to be a Sanders delegate at the state Democratic convention, and he was eventually handed paperwork to be one of nine national Democratic electors in Colorado. He filled it out and prevailed in a series of local and state party contests to win an elector's seat.
Four years later, he is — ironically — a part of the fight to, in essence, eliminate the Electoral College.
"If we get the ruling [for elector freedom], I think it would have to result in a constitutional amendment. I won't be writing it, but maybe it'd be called the 'One Person, One Vote Amendment,'" Baca said. "A president elected purely by popular vote."