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EC Scenarios

 


Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

I have noted in various places some confusion over what can, and cannot, happen with the electoral vote.  Here are the options:

  1.  The electors act as messengers, delivering to their state capitals the electoral votes corresponding to the candidate who won the given state (as per the above, with 306 going to Trump and 232 to Clinton).
  2.  The same as the above, but with a handful of faithless electors who wish to make a political point, but with nowhere close to enough to threaten the 270 Trump needs to win.
  3. Thirty-seven, or more, electors could defect from Trump to vote for neither Clinton nor Trump, but instead for Candidate X (or splitting the 37 votes for X, Y, Z, etc.).  This would throw the election to the House of Representatives (with the top three vote-getters as the choices for the chamber).
  4. Thirty-seven Trump electors could vote for Clinton, tying the contest at 269-269, which would throw the election to the House of Representatives.
  5. Thirty-eight, or more, Trump electors could defect to Clinton.  If she could hold her 232 in that case she would have the 270 needed to be elected president.
  6. Two-hundred and seventy electors defect and choose Candidate X.

Of these scenarios, #2 is the most likely.  We already know of one confirmed faithless elector, and given the nature of this election, I expect more (but, at a wild guess still stays at maybe three or four tops).  Scenario #1 is the next most likely (it is certainly the historical norm).

Scenarios 3 and 4 would send the contest to the House.  In the case of #3 the contest would be Trump v. Hillary v. Candidate X.  The likelihood is that Trump would prevail (at this late date, finding a candidate that House delegations would support over the candidate their state voted for is highly unlikely).  Certainly in scenario #4, Trump wins.  Note that the House cannot choose a candidate other than one of the ones voted on by the EC (despite what I have heard a number of people assert).

Scenario #6 is a fantasy to make Rogue One look like a documentary.  Coordinating that outcome is nearly impossible.  In truth, coordinating any non-standard scenario (i.e., 3-6) is pretty much impossible.  By “coordinating” I mean getting enough electors working together to produce a specific outcome.

Scenario #5 is the only viable (and I use the term liberally) scenario to stop Trump.  If there was truly a serious movement to avoid a Trump presidency, this is the only even semi-possible way for it to happen.  And, of course, the notion that 38 Republican electors are going to switch to vote for the Democratic candidate is difficult to accept as realistic.  Indeed, the likelihood of one Trump elector voting Clinton seems highly improbable, and the likelihood that 38 would do so seems almost infinitely improbable.

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About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. john430 says:

    Steven: Why bother with this at all? It is merely mental masturbation for the leftists who cannot fathom why their plans were upended.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 15

  2. @john430: I do not consider explaining something, and potentially helping foster understanding to be “mental masturbation.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 2

  3. michael reynolds says:

    Well, I came.

    Yeah, it’s Option 2.

    As a fiction guy I want #6 just because then you get the out-of-the-blue scenario, the predicable but perhaps pleasurable national lotto thing where Average Joe Tom Hanks wins if we want heartfelt, and Chris Rock wins if we want edge, or maybe Amy Pohler if we want a younger, female Tom Hanks. I’d be thinking Amy Schumer, personally.

    Or we could do it Gotham style, a Penguin character poisoning the water supply at the electoral college which for cinematic reasons would all be in one place at one time, preferably someplace iconic enough to blow up in a call-back to the Reichstag fire. If it’s Marvel universe it’s a classic Wilson Fisk (Kingpin, duh) move. Kingpin would totally fix an election.

    And I think it’s obvious that this would be a golden opportunity for an invasive, parasitic species, like the one in Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, or Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, or our own Animorphs series.

    Thriller? Alan Rickman is brought back from the dead to seize terroristic control over the conveniently-centralized EC while issuing strangely-enunciated but quotable threats. “It’s time to vote. Live. . . or die?” “Each vote counts for one life. . . your own.” And of course, “Yes. . . I am the half-blood prince.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  4. anjin-san says:

    @john430:

    I’m curious, what exactly does “leftist” mean to you? You hear Republicans use this line constantly. Has it ever occurred to you that a decent slice of the so called leftists that hang out here are actually quite successful in the capitalist marketplace and they could probably buy you out of petty cash?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 3

  5. john430 says:

    @anjin-san: The more I see your comments the more banal you become.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 14

  6. Paul Hooson says:

    The second scenario where a few Clinton electors cast some protest vote of some sort, and maybe only one or none of the Trump electors cast some protest vote. It won’t change the final outcome enough. – The final outcome was even worse than my pre-election forecast of Trump at 266 and Clinton hanging on at 272. I didn’t expect such a Clinton disaster in the Midwest of barely winning Minnesota, losing Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, and getting blown out big time in Ohio and Iowa. I expected Clinton to survive with wins in Michigan, Wisconsin and Michigan. The Clinton Campaign simply expected to run negative ads against Trump, but ran few positive ads to give voters a reason to vote for her, or to make a stronger pitch to union and working class voters would save the Midwest states. Trump was successful into fooling workers into believing that his policies at aimed cutting taxes for the wealthy, etc., cutting environmental regulations, product safety, etc. would somehow benefit workers. – Clinton’s campaign just did not seriously challenge Trump’s simplistic vision of a pre-high tech 1950’s fossil fuel based economy. Nor, was it seriously challenged that robots, not Mexican workers, would only continue to displace many American factory jobs. Add to this the mischief by Putin and the FBI Director, and Clinton had too many problems brew late in the campaign to recover her footing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  7. Guarneri says:

    @anjin-san:

    Income and political viewpoint are not the same

    Kinda the lesson of the election, eh?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 8

  8. J-Dub says:

    “So you’re telling me there’s a chance” – Lloyd Christmas

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  9. @Guarneri:

    Income and political viewpoint are not the same

    True, but it sure would be helpful if people actually understood what “left” and “right” means–even in a general sense.

    And, really, a lot of people who embraced Trump are proving that they don’t even understand their own professed political point of view.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 2

  10. @J-Dub: Indeed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  11. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @john430:

    The more I see your comments the more banal you become.

    The more we see your comments, the more you reveal yourself to be a small, bitter and petty individual.

    Have a nice day. And bless your heart.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 3

  12. Kylopod says:

    @Guarneri:

    Income and political viewpoint are not the same

    But they are closely correlated, as they have been for decades. Even this year Clinton was beaten by Trump among those making $100,000 or more and had her strongest showing among those with incomes of $50,000 or less. If that seems surprising to anyone, it just goes to show how the concept of the “white working class” is used to treat minorities as if they are invisible.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  13. Pch101 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    And, really, a lot of people who embraced Trump are proving that they don’t even understand their own professed political point of view.

    In the Southern Strategy era, the right is defined largely by cultural values, not by free trade or laissez faire economics.

    What establishment conservatives need to understand is that the voters who flipped from Dem to Republican in response to the civil rights movement were motivated primarily by race and religion.

    White Southerners were fine with entitlement programs when they believed that the benefits went to their tribe. They began to oppose those programs when they began to think that the benefits were going to minorities. (The cognitive dissonance among white voters is strong, as many of those who are net takers from the system think of themselves as givers.)

    That’s a sharp contrast from affluent establishment conservatives who don’t want anyone to get the programs — they are motivated to reject them because they don’t want to write the check, irrespective of the color of who gets the check.

    Again, I’m reminded of the “mule” scene from Mississippi Burning, which provides a succinct summary of what racism is about: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlzaBi_QxPw

    Trump promised a free lunch for white people. That offends the establishment that doesn’t want to pay for it, but pleases the resentniks who believe that they are finally going to get what they deserve.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  14. @Pch101: Which is why I stated a lot of people don’t understand their own professed political points of view.

    I have debating some of this, for example, with a neighbor of mine who clearly is motivated by the cultural issues while all the while stating that it is all about taxes and regulations.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  15. C. Clavin says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    And, really, a lot of people who embraced Trump are proving that they don’t even understand their own professed political point of view.

    I’m kinda anxious to see how those people feel when they lose their insurance coverage, Medicare and SS go away, the Middle East is in turmoil and gas is back to $4+, the tax cuts Trump promised don’t even begin to affect them, and their drinking water is polluted from unfettered fracking.
    I’m a straight white male, in the 96th percentile of income, with a healthy retirement fund. I survived the Bush Contraction, and I’ll likely survive four years of Trump just fine. Most of the folks who voted for him? I seriously doubt it. And all because they are ignorant of “others”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3

  16. al-Ameda says:

    To me, Trump voters are those people who, while watching QVC, listened very attentively to the sales pitch for the combination Waffle-Iron/ Laptop, and purchased it in 4 easy installment payments of $249.95 (plus free shipping).

    Oh, and “keep the government out of my Social Security and Medicare!”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  17. C. Clavin says:

    @C. Clavin:

    the Middle East is in turmoil and gas is back to $4+

    Apparently Trump is not the least bit interested in peace in the Middle East.
    http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/12/trumps-israel-ambassador-likens-left-wing-jews-to-kapos.html
    Trump just seems very confused about foreign policy. He is apparently in huge debt to Russian interests, both financially and for getting him elected. Supporting Russia is tantamount to supporting Syria and Iran. But then he appoints a hard-line Zionist who would like nothing more than for war against Palestine, Hezbollah, and thus Iran.
    I suppose it’s about money. Trump is a huge investor in fossil fuels. Unrest in the middle east makes him money. Ipso facto…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  18. C. Clavin says:

    @al-Ameda:

    To me, Trump voters are those people who, while watching QVC, listened very attentively to the sales pitch for the combination Waffle-Iron/ Laptop, and purchased it in 4 easy installment payments of $249.95 (plus free shipping).

    Yup…Guarneri.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  19. Mikey says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I have debating some of this, for example, with a neighbor of mine who clearly is motivated by the cultural issues while all the while stating that it is all about taxes and regulations.

    We as a nation have progressed to the point where open expression of racial bias is generally frowned upon, so many on the right have applied the pretext of “taxes and regulations” to avoid admitting what they truly feel.

    Any apparent confusion about, or lack of understanding of, their political point of view is simply due to an imperfect application of the pretext.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  20. gVOR08 says:

    I expect Option 2, but I like Option 3. Throw the election into the House, where Trump will win on pretty much a straight party line vote, but the Rs will own it. They will have voted contrary to the clear majority of voters. They won’t have the cover of the Electoral College. They won’t be able to say, “It wasn’t us, it wasn’t Republicans, it was just Trump, who somehow fell out of the sky and hijacked our pure, innocent party.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  21. gVOR08 says:

    @C. Clavin: I read somewhere that QVC claim their customers generally have well above average family incomes. Which doesn’t mean they didn’t vote for Trump.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  22. charon says:

    @Mikey:

    They lack the self-awareness to believe they are racists and religious bigots and misogynists.

    Their anger is largely fueled by indignation that “eliteists” (as they view them) see them as such.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  23. wr says:

    @C. Clavin: “But then he appoints a hard-line Zionist who would like nothing more than for war against Palestine, Hezbollah, and thus Iran.”

    Because Adelson told him to.

    It’s not like Trump knows or cares about such things.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  24. Facebones says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    And, really, a lot of people who embraced Trump are proving that they don’t even understand their own professed political point of view.

    It’s mind boggling. You have a republican party that for the last six years has campaigned against the “job-killing disaster” that is Obamacare. with 50+ repeal votes. Said republican party gets elected. People who voted for that same republican party express shock that this means they might lose their health insurance.

    I just can’t even with maroons like this.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  25. Facebones says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Trump just seems very confused about foreign policy.

    Master of understatement.

    It’s not that hard, though. Trump will do whatever the last person he talked to told him to do, provided that person was sufficiently obsequious.

    This is both obvious and terrifying. You’re such a strong, decisive leader! You aren’t going to let those Chinese push you around, are you?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  26. Pch101 says:

    @Mikey:

    We as a nation have progressed to the point where open expression of racial bias is generally frowned upon, so many on the right have applied the pretext of “taxes and regulations” to avoid admitting what they truly feel.

    Exactly.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  27. Pch101 says:

    @Facebones:

    They think that opposition to Obamacare means denying health coverage to lazy people (read: minorities.)

    They haven’t figured out that they are in the same boat as the minorities to whom they feel superior. And they never will.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  28. george says:

    @al-Ameda:

    There are sixty million Trump voters. I’ve managed engineering teams of ten to fifty, and one of the first things I learned is that its almost pointless to assume they all are motivated by the same thing. In fact, managing a group of say twenty engineers is mainly about finding twenty different motivations leading to the same action.

    Now its possible that the engineering teams I managed were outliers, and that if I’d continued on to another sixty million team members I’d have found that sixty million would all have been motivated by the same thing. But I doubt it.

    If our understanding of people is that shallow we’ve no chance in 2018 or 2020. My own limited experience, from talking in depth to about thirty Trump voters, is that each had their own reasons. I’m always amazed, when I take the time to talk to people, how complex their reasons for doing anything is.

    What’s the line from Tolstoy? Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way? I think he nailed it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  29. Mikey says:

    @george: People will tell you all these wonderful different-seeming motivations, but they all boil down to some consistent cultural themes.

    And a lot of them are BS-ing you anyway because their real concerns are race-based and they either don’t grasp exactly how race-based or they don’t want to admit it to you.

    Or themselves.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  30. Pch101 says:

    It is no mystery to marketing pros that we can break down populations into psychographic segments that make it easier to understand their motivations. This may offend the sensibilities of the we’re-all-unique crowd, but we aren’t all that special and marketing messages will account for these shared characteristics.

    The idea that every voter for Trump or whomever defies categorization is ridiculous. On the contrary, we can readily cluster voters into various psychographic groups and figure them out easily enough. Perhaps a half-dozen segments could be used to describe most of those who support a given major party candidate.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  31. @Mikey:

    Any apparent confusion about, or lack of understanding of, their political point of view is simply due to an imperfect application of the pretext.

    Or, it may be that people don’t actually know what they are talking about. The notion that “tax cuts produce growth” is taken as gospel truth by many. So is the notion that the Dems are going to take the guns away (which is linked to culture).

    Race s profoundly interwoven into all of this. Sometimes people know that and won’t say it, sometimes they really don’t realize it.

    None of that changes the fact that they often speak a belief sincerely (such as about taxes or healthcare) without really understanding what they are saying.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  32. @george:

    I’ve managed engineering teams of ten to fifty, and one of the first things I learned is that its almost pointless to assume they all are motivated by the same thing. In fact, managing a group of say twenty engineers is mainly about finding twenty different motivations leading to the same action.

    Now its possible that the engineering teams I managed were outliers, and that if I’d continued on to another sixty million team members I’d have found that sixty million would all have been motivated by the same thing. But I doubt it.

    Indeed–we know, in fact, that this is very much true about voting: different voters choose a given candidate for different reasons and even a lone voter might have multiple reasons for their choice. To try and assign a single variable (or even a handful) to explain a given outcome is foolish.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  33. al-Alameda says:

    @george:

    If our understanding of people is that shallow we’ve no chance in 2018 or 2020. My own limited experience, from talking in depth to about thirty Trump voters, is that each had their own reasons. I’m always amazed, when I take the time to talk to people, how complex their reasons for doing anything is.

    You make good points, and I freely admit to snarking a bit on the broad brush characterization of Trump voters.

    Although I live in California in the San Francisco Bay Area, I am further out of the so-called liberal bubble than most of the people I know. In my family (law enforcement) 8 of 10 of us voted for Trump (I’m one of the 2, although I suspect that a brother voted for Gary Johnson rather than HRC). Also, many friends of my family are in police, they’re firefighters, and other middle class working professions – I’d guess, based on occasional conversations, that a super-majority of them voted for Trump.

    I’m a outlier in that group. I’m not sequestered from their conservative opinions, I hear them all the time, I understand their grievances, I don’t agree with them, but that’s the way it goes.

    I’ve also noticed that in recent years many of these people (my family included) have come to accept the often-irrational Limbaugh/Hannity/Levin/Savage/O’Reilly characterization of liberals. I honestly do not feel that I have much ‘soul searching’ to do with respect to working class Americans. I know many of them – they are my family and friends of family.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  34. george says:

    @Mikey:

    Well, there certainly is the theory that twenty engineers working on a development project would be BS’ing about their motivations – a combination of interesting/challenging work, how it affects home life, future prospects (from staying in development to moving into marketing or managing eventually), spin off interests (experience in new technologies), everything from low stress for some to high adrenaline for others, and so on. People who think there’s just cause, as you seem to do, usually say its only about money.

    I’m skeptical. I’m even skeptical about how uniform their culture is, given that the culture they come from isn’t uniform (not even uniformly North American, if you’re one who assumes all North American culture is identical, because a third are from Asia). My sense, after doing this for awhile, is that most are pretty honest when they tell me what they’re looking for in their work and future.

    Obviously your experience is different; I stand by my experience – people are driven by different motivations.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  35. george says:

    @al-Alameda:

    I agree, and I didn’t mean soul searching; in fact I think what you’re describing is simply listening to them, which is what I suggest. Despite what people are saying, my observation is that most people tend to be pretty honest about their motivations if you let them talk in a relaxed situation.

    When I do so, I find a pretty complex story. Just as there’s a pretty complex story in listening to people who voted for Clinton, or Johnson, or Stein. Its trite to say we’re all individuals (I keep thinking of Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” window scene, but the better you get to know any individual, the more true it seems to be. Managing has been an eye opener for me; before that I felt confident about assigning people to groups based on a few general characteristics. Now I no longer do.

    I’m told teachers often have the same experience too – even problem kids turn into quite separate individuals when you have the time to get to know them. Of course for a political party there isn’t time to do that, so some generalizations have to be made. But I think we’re tending to exceedingly simplistic ones.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  36. Guarneri says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    And the same can be said of the views of progressives or whatever you want to call them. And red herrings like income abound. I mock this labeling and inconsistency because it deserves to be mocked.

    It’s a long way from Hillary Clinton chastising as undemocratic the questioning of an election. Pure hypocrisy. He reaction of the left, or whatever you want to call them, the past month is bizarre. Kieth Olberman anyone?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  37. Mikey says:

    @george: I appreciate what you’re saying, but I don’t think your analogy is entirely valid, because engineers are working directly to produce some tangible object, while voters are only influencing a process. Still, I do get your point.

    People’s motivation is generally to do something that improves their lives and livelihood, but they are often confused as to what that is (look at the people who are benefiting from Obamacare but still voted for the candidate who pledged to eliminate it). There are overriding cultural issues in votes like that and while individual voters may vary somewhat, they still vary within a definable frame.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  38. Mikey says:

    @george:

    I keep thinking of Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” window scene

    I try not to…that was a lot more of Graham Chapman than I wanted to see…hahahahaha…

    What an incredible film that is. There’s so much truth in comedy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  39. anjin-san says:

    @john430: @john430:

    Well, perhaps if you apply yourself, you can move beyond name calling and someday rise to the level of banality yourself :)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  40. Tony W says:

    @anjin-san:

    they could probably buy you out of petty cash?

    Well – I’m only a 3-4%’er, I’d have to pair up with somebody.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  41. george says:

    @Mikey:

    I didn’t mean it as analogy, but as an example of just how varied people’s motivations are once you get to know them. Even supposedly simple things like work. What motivates people to work? Money, obviously, right? Except its not that simple. Same with why people eat. They’re hungry, right? Except, as anyone with a family member with a weight problem can tell you, its not that simple.

    I completely agree that there are cultural issues that come into play, but I think those issues are much more complex than given credit for. Thinking that everyone who’s a white blue collar worker in the midwest really has an identical culture is political malpractice. There are nested subcultures that go very deep, and often override the overall culture. Moreover, the various subcultures are often pulling in conflicting directions (in fact, more often than not, which is what makes managing, or trying to reach voters, such an art form). All of us simultaneously belong to and identify with a large number of groups, and more often than not its the small subcultures that we strongly associate with (anything from sports to ethnicity to religion to recreational activities – talk to climbers or martial artists or musicians if you doubt this) that are the stronger pull.

    And you’re definitely correct about mistakes about what improves our lives – I’ve screwed up on that too many times to count (you name it, I’ve done it – relationships, work, sport, what I’ve ate and drank, what I’ve purchased). Its basically a given for most of us, and its odd to think it’d be any different with respect to voting than it is for anything else. Which means we (or I guess anyone who thinks their politics is the best) have to make a case on many levels: philosophical, practical, emotional, and hope that we make a strong enough case. Its like trying to convince someone to exercise for their health – just spouting medical facts isn’t going to do it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  42. george says:

    @Mikey:

    Yeah, it and “The Holy Grail” are films I can watch repeatedly (and I guess did in university, they were cult classics).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0