By Cathleen Decker, latimes.com
Donald Trump is expected to move a consequential step closer to his inauguration as president Monday when the members of the electoral college hold 51 separate meetings nationwide to cast the ballots that will formally determine the winner of the November election.
In keeping with the chaotic campaign, the run-up to the electors’ balloting has been filled with protests and disputes over the constitutionally mandated gatherings.
Millions of Americans have signed petitions, deluged electors with letters and emails and indulged in elaborate hypotheticals about how those votes might be swayed. The passion behind those efforts has been intensified by post-election drama over U.S. intelligence that indicates Russia attempted to assist Trump before the election by stealing and distributing private emails from Democratic institutions and activists.
Going into the Monday meetings in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, Trump held a comfortable lead of 306 votes to 232 for Hillary Clinton, based on the popular vote tallied on and after Nov. 8.
And by all indications, despite the unusual level of scrutiny, those votes largely will be cast according to expectations.
The 538 electoral votes are allocated by state. In nearly all states, the candidate who wins a majority of the popular vote in the state wins all of its electoral votes.
Trump’s margin means 37 electors would have to turn from him to Clinton or some other candidate to deny him the majority, but unless another candidate spontaneously emerged to win a majority of electors’ votes, defections would serve only to send the election to the Republican-controlled House, which would presumably side with the party’s nominee.
More electors would have to flip their votes in order to give the White House to the Democratic nominee. Any significant number of defections is highly unlikely, since most electors are party loyalists.
Rump efforts to deny Trump the presidency by turning his electors against him appear not to have gained much ground. To date, only one Republican elector, in Texas, has said publicly that he would not vote for Trump. A separate Democratic attempt to turn Clinton balloters away from her so they could join with Republicans to back a new candidate has similarly gotten little traction, not least because no alternative candidate has stepped forward.
A group of electors led by Christine Pelosi, the daughter of House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and like her mother a San Francisco Democrat, has sought a meeting with intelligence officials to discuss their views on the election hacking.