Monday, February 19, 2018

Area member of Electoral College: No chance vote changes

By Glenn Evans
Nov. 20, 2016 at 4 a.m.

The Republican chosen to represent 771,000 Northeast Texans on the obscure panel that actually elects presidents isn't going to be moved from the choice her party made Nov. 8.

"I've been getting letters, emails. I've taken calls, just begging me not to vote for (Donald) Trump," Marty Rhymes said this past week at Gregg County GOP headquarters in Longview.

Those voices were not imploring her to cast her Electoral College vote for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who actually was Rhymes' first choice for the White House — and that of a vocal majority of the Northeast Texas GOP.

"I asked them and said, 'Who did you vote for?' And they said, 'Clinton,' " Rhymes said, without having to say she's as likely to cast her Electoral College vote for Hillary Clinton as she is to climb the courthouse.

Rhymes was named the interim Gregg County Republican chairwoman Tuesday, after Chairman Tim Vaughn announced his resignation. She said she will be true to her charge.

Elected by delegates to the Texas Republican Convention this summer, Rhymes and 37 fellow Texas electors are set to meet Dec. 19 in Austin to cast their ballots.

Technically, they are free agents who can vote their conscience.

"That's what I was elected for, that I would promise I would cast my vote for the results of Texas," she said. "I would not have a good conscience to vote for anyone except Trump."

At least one Texas Republican elector told the Associated Press he won't cast a vote for Trump — or Clinton.

Art Sisneros said he has reservations about Trump.

"As a Christian, I came to the conclusion that Mr. Trump is not biblically qualified for that office," he told the AP.

He told the AP that one of his options is to resign, allowing the Texas GOP to choose another elector.

Something of an American political oddity, the Electoral College is 538 so-called electors from each of the major parties. Each state gets so many, based roughly on its number of congressional districts — which, in turn, is based on population.

Texas has 36, and each state gets two more electors for the two senators each sends to Washington.

Under an all-or-nothing principal, the winner of the popular vote in each state gets all of that state's electors.

That means Trump has 38 Texas electors despite Democrat Clinton drawing slightly more than two out of five Lone Star ballots on Nov. 8, with 43.29 percent of the votes.

That, in turn, means Democratic elector Vik Verma of Longview won't be going to Austin next month, at least not to vote for a president.

"I understand the complaints about the electoral college," he said Wednesday. "Every race we have, it's not about the votes. It's about the electors. ... This is the system we have, and we know the rule. ... I'm immensely proud to have worked for the candidate, Hillary Clinton, who is going to win the popular vote. While that's consolation and it doesn't replace winning, it's still something. It's not irrelevant, and I think people should remember that."

CNN reported this week that Clinton won 61,329,657 votes to Trump's 60,530,867 in unofficial results as of Tuesday. The network said that's the fifth time in history that a nominee has won the popular vote but not the Electoral College.

Bills calling for a Constitutional Amendment eliminating the Electoral College pop up every few election cycles. One did Tuesday, this time from California Democratic U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Such measures face two very high hurdles.

Firstly, as now and in 2000 when George W. Bush lost the popular vote but won the Electoral College, the person in charge of the White House would have to sign off on a bill that kills the very tool that gave him the presidency.

And even if a bill won congressional passage, there's that whole passage-by-three-fourths-of-the-states-within-seven-years thing. That's happened 27 times since the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1788.

This is Rhymes' first time joining the Electoral College. She was elected as a delegate to the 2012 Republican National Convention that nominated Mitt Romney.

"They are supposed to send me a letter, and they will furnish me a room for the night before," she said of her Austin sojourn.

And she defended the Electoral College system.

"We absolutely need" it Rhymes said. "If it was the popular vote ... the candidate would only go to big cities. That means all these people that live on farms — that raise our cattle, that grow our crops and do all these things — really would not have a voice."



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