In the wake of a tumultuous election, some are looking to change the minds of Electoral College voters – who don’t make their official votes until December 19th – in order to make Hillary Clinton the next president of the United States. Twitter and Facebook have been key in driving this movement, and media outlets have fanned the flames of this story upon seeing the social media firestorm – even when a Clinton electoral win is highly unlikely.
Once it was clear that Donald Trump obtained more than 270 electoral votes on Election Night, Clinton supporters flooded the internet and created multiple petitions, requesting electors do what was necessary to make Hillary Clinton president.
A petition created on MoveOn to abolish the electoral college currently has 562,000 signature, only around 10,000 short of its goal.
The Daily Kos, a liberal blog, then promoted an agreement between the states in which all state electors would award their Electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote. This method avoids making any changes to the constitution but effectively works within the existing constraints.
A final petition to elect Hillary Clinton was created on December 16th by Daniel Brezenoff, of swing state North Carolina, on Change.org. When asked why he created it, he said that if anytime was ripe for a “hail mary” to work, it was now.
“Yes, I think it’s a longshot, but I also think we’re living in strange times,” Brezenoff told the Associated Press. “If it was ever plausible, it’s this year.”
The petition currently has upwards of 4 million signatures and received thousands of shares on both Facebook and Twitter. Change.org integrates the share feature onto its webpage so people are more inclined to take the next step. Social media posts sharing the petition are often accompanied with a comment on how the Electoral College was meant to provide the unheard with a voice.
— Brice Beckham (@bricebeckham) November 17, 2016
Sometimes you gotta throw a hail mary, folks. Sign the Electoral College petition if you haven’t already.https://t.co/KdH9ojnUd2
— Jay Fanelli (@fanelli) November 17, 2016
Media outlets have been latching onto these petitions. The Huffington Post published a contributor article urging people give the electoral votes to the woman that won the popular vote.
“These electors that we now ask to take the moral high ground, support the actual winner of the election, and vote for Clinton, will be under great pressure from their Republican party heads to stay in line and vote for Trump,” the contributor wrote. “They need our support and affirmation that to make the brave choice of voting for Clinton on December 19 will ultimately be not the choice that will save their own skins but indeed the choice that saves their souls.”
In a USA Today write-up examining the possibility of electors making Hillary Clinton a “Madame President,” the outlet spoke truth to the social media frenzy saying that it was an “unlikely” outcome:
“In modern practice, the Electoral College is mostly a formality. […] there have been 157 ‘faithless electors’ in the history of the U.S. But even that figure is deceptively high. […] None has affected the outcome of a presidential election.”
The novelty of Donald Trump and the unprecedented, unpredictable nature of his campaign and transition are what continues to keep media and citizens interested – with the hope that “anything could happen.”
The increased media attention on this “hail mary” could potentially be distracting people from more pressing issues, like the political viability of Trump’s recent cabinet nomination. Instead of trying to push Clinton through a closed door, it is vital that reporters and citizens alike are aware of current happenings, rather than just possibilities.