With just a couple days to go before the Electoral College officially votes for the next president of the United States, Harvard University law professor Larry Lessig has claimed there are as many as 30 Republican electors who are open to breaking their pledge and voting for a candidate other than Donald Trump - thus preventing him from "winning" the election.
In an interview with MSNBC's Chuck Todd on Tuesday, Lessig - who was once a candidate in the election himself - claimed that "a bunch of groups" have been offering legal advice and support to electors looking to exercise their federal right to "vote their conscience" by voting against Trump.
"Surveying the three groups that are supporting Republican electors, we believe there are 20 right now - some tell me the number is higher than that, it should be more like 30 - but I feel confident in saying there’s at least 20,” he claimed.
As the law professor went on to explain, it would take 37 faithless electors in states that voted for Trump to prevent the president-elect from reaching the 270 votes necessary to assume office. And while these faithless electors might be punished at a state level for voting against Trump, Lessig argues that because they are, technically, federal electors, their right to "be able to exercise their independent and nonpartisan judgment about who to vote for" should be protected by the federal Constitution.
"They can't be forced by law [to vote for a state's preferred candidate], but they have an ethical, moral obligation once they take the pledge and they must vote that way, unless there is an overriding moral reason not to vote that way," he said. "And the disqualification, or the failure of a candidate to live up to the qualifications, would be one such reason. And that's exactly the issue that's raised by this election. The Electoral College was made for this election."
In the interview, Lessig claimed it was completely plausible that 37 Republican electors would decide to vote against Trump - thus turning the decision over to the House of Representatives, who would then have to pick between the top three candidates. However, Lessig also acknowledged that if the Electoral College were to turn the decision back to Congress, it's entirely possible Trump would still be elected into office, given the fact that Republicans currently hold the majority of seats.
Furthermore, Lessig also stated his opinion that without the necessary 37 faithless electors, it's unlikely any of them will actually exercise their right to vote against Trump, let alone publicize it. In fact, so far, only one Republican faithless elector has come forward to say he will not vote for the president-elect.
However, because of "reasons like the threat of foreign involvement in our election, or a candidate who refuses to live up to the foreign bribery clause by disassociating himself or divesting himself from assets that could be affected by foreign governments," Lessig is still supportive of electors' right to vote against the president-elect if they believe he is unfit to serve.
"We have a system," he said. "The system is the Electoral College, which has the right to make a judgment in the end whether to confirm the democratic result."
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