Republican presidential elector, one of the 538 people asked to officially choose the president of the United States.
A Republican member of the Electoral College has come out saying he will not vote for President-elect Donald Trump when the Electoral College convenes December 19. Christopher Suprun, a paramedic from Texas, wrote in an op-ed published in The New York Times on Monday that Trump is "not qualified for the office" of the presidency. He goes on to write, "The election of the next president is not yet a done deal. Electors of conscience can still do the right thing for the good of the country. Presidential electors have the legal right and a constitutional duty to vote their conscience." Suprun is the first Republican member of the Electoral College to publicly announce he won’t vote for Trump. Meanwhile, a group of Democratic electors is trying to block Trump by encouraging electors of both parties in every state to unite behind a yet-to-be determined consensus Republican candidate. They’ve dubbed themselves the "Hamilton electors" after Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, who they say intended the Electoral College to safeguard the presidency. For more, we speak with Christopher Suprun.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: A Republican member of the Electoral College has come out saying he will not vote for President-elect Donald Trump when the Electoral College convenes on December 19th. Christopher Suprun, a paramedic from Texas, wrote in an op-ed published in The New York Times on Monday that Trump is, quote, "not qualified for the office" of the presidency. He goes on to write, quote, "The election of the next president is not yet a done deal. Electors of conscience can still do the right thing for the good of the country. Presidential electors have the legal right and a constitutional duty to vote their conscience." Suprun is the first Republican member of the Electoral College to publicly announce he won’t vote for Trump, but there are reports of other so-called faithless electors.
Meanwhile, a group of Democratic electors is trying to block Trump by encouraging electors of both parties in every state to unite behind a yet-to-be determined consensus Republican candidate. They’ve dubbed themselves the "Hamilton electors" after Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, who they say intended the Electoral College to safeguard the presidency. This is Democrat Bret Chiafalo, a Hamilton elector from Washington.
BRET CHIAFALO: The Electoral College is our failsafe mechanism. And, no, we’ve never used to before. But our country has never needed it before. We have always elected experienced statesmen. But this time is different. This is the moment Hamilton and Madison warned us about. This is the emergency they built the Electoral College for, and it is our constitutional duty and our moral responsibility to put the emergency measures into action. If only 37 Republican electors change their vote, Donald Trump will not have the 270 electoral votes he needs to be president. Thirty-seven patriots can save this country.
AMY GOODMAN: Electors are typically selected by their state’s party leaders. According to FairVote, 29 states have laws forbidding electors from bucking the will of their voters. However, 21, including Texas, have no binding restrictions. Historically, it’s extremely rare for electors to dissent, and so far no elector has changed the outcome of an election by voting against his or her party’s designated candidate.
For more, we’re going to Dallas, Texas, where we’re joined by Christopher Suprun. His piece, "Why I Will Not Cast My Electoral Vote for Donald Trump," appeared in The New York Times Monday.
Christopher Suprun, welcome to Democracy Now! So, talk about how you came to this decision.
CHRISTOPHER SUPRUN: Well, painfully. I had intended to support the nominee, but, unfortunately, Mr. Trump has proven again and again he is not qualified for the office. He is a complete demagogue, as we’ve seen for the past 18 months, up 'til last night, where he picked on a steelworker who had to say something about his jobs plan for Carrier. That's a scary thought: When you’re a simple steelworker or union boss there at a factory in Indiana, you question the president, and he comes after you 30 minutes later.
I’m not sure what the president is going to do when North Korea says something even worse about him in international relations, which brings up the second reason why he’s not qualified. Fifty of my Republican colleagues, who are national security and foreign policy experts, said Mr. Trump would be a danger if he were president. And we’ve already seen that, where he has exacerbated situations in Taiwan and China with his change on the "one China" policy, or what appears to be a change.
And then, beyond that, part of the issue with Taiwan was it appeared to be a sales call. Mr. Trump cannot profit off the office of the president. It’s expressly forbidden by the Emoluments Clause. And, it appears, every time he calls another country, it’s to sell a Trump property.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Christopher Suprun, can you talk about what the response has been to your decision not to support Trump?
CHRISTOPHER SUPRUN: Well, which response? Because there’s certainly feedback saying I’m an awful person, I’m a traitor. I saw a tweet a little while ago that said I should live out the rest of my life at Gitmo, which is a scary thought, that when a person takes a conscious decision to vote their conscience, that our answer is to charge them with treason, even verbally.
But the other feedback I’ve received from across Texas, from across my county, from across the country, and even outside the country, has been positive. I’ve had Americans of all shape and form come to me and say, "You’ve restored my faith in America, that maybe we can still be that great country we should be."
AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about how it works. What will happen on December 19th? Where do you go, and what will you do?
CHRISTOPHER SUPRUN: Sure. Electors from each state will go to their respective state capital. They will then cast ballots; I believe it’s a six-page form. Each ballot goes to a different person. And you write in a name. It’s not like a typical ballot at the ballot box in a November election, where you have to check a box, as I understand it. This is my first time participating in the process. But you actually write in a name for that candidate you are electing president and then vice president.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And how were you selected, Christopher Suprun? How were you selected to join the Electoral College?
CHRISTOPHER SUPRUN: I was elected at the Republican state convention in May.
AMY GOODMAN: So—
CHRISTOPHER SUPRUN: The Republican—correct, the Texas Republican state convention—I want to make sure that’s clear—not the national.
AMY GOODMAN: Twenty-nine states have laws forbidding electors from bucking the will of the people of the state. Texas is not one of them. Texas is one of the 21 that have no binding restrictions. So explain how it works for you when you will vote not for President Trump, and how it works for others in other states.
CHRISTOPHER SUPRUN: Well, I think—again, as I just described, I think I’m going to place a name of a person who I think has got great executive and legislative experience and that can unite the country. I think we are going to go through a basic process; I’m not entirely sure of what that is. The secretary of state, as I understand it, will provide us that information when we arrive that morning. In terms of other states, I think they have a similar process, though I’m not sure how they are going to be different and what the binding laws are going to—if they’re even going to exist. As you mentioned, there’s a lawsuit, I believe in Colorado, to overturn that function.
AMY GOODMAN: Who are you going to vote for?
CHRISTOPHER SUPRUN: I don’t know. I’m in a deliberations phase. I said in my op-ed that I think John Kasich would be a great person. And while I know he’s declined it, for me, when I speak to other electors, there’s one name that comes up as an acceptable alternative over and over, and that’s John Kasich.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And do you—
CHRISTOPHER SUPRUN: So I’m not sure who that person is going to be, but I think they’ll be like Mr.—Governor Kasich.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Do you know of other Republican electors who are likely to join you on December 19th in opposing Trump?
CHRISTOPHER SUPRUN: I’m not sure I’m ready to say that at this point. When I wrote the op-ed, it was so that I could be accountable for my vote, because I didn’t want to go to Austin and cast a vote of appeasement and simply write in Donald Trump because I was lazy. But since that time, I’ve had a number of people reach out to me. And I’m—I guess I would say this: I’m not ready to tell you who they are or what they are, but I don’t think I will be alone.
AMY GOODMAN: There’s a Change.org petition asking you be removed as a GOP member and/or delegate. It has 16,000 signatures so far. Christopher, your response?
CHRISTOPHER SUPRUN: If there’s a link, I get those tweets all the time. People say, "Where can I sign up?" I can’t respond to them all, but I try and refer them to Change.org. This is a great country. I am so glad I live in America, where people have the First Amendment right to tell me they think I’m wrong. I’m OK with that. Fill out the petition. We’ll go through the process. If there is a process to remove me, I’m going to oppose it, obviously, but that’s how democracy works. That’s how our First Amendment works.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Harvard Law professor Larry Lessig has launched The Electors Trust to provide free and confidential legal support to any Electoral College elector who chooses to vote his or her conscience.
CHRISTOPHER SUPRUN: Correct.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Lessig quotes Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson writing in 1952, saying, quote, "No one faithful to our history can deny that the plan originally contemplated ... that electors would be free agents, to exercise an independent and nonpartisan judgment as to the men best qualified for the Nation’s highest offices." And your response to that, Christopher Suprun?
CHRISTOPHER SUPRUN: Well, Mr. Lessig has reached out to me. And I’ve been lucky enough to have him help represent me. And I believe he’s going to be representing me going forward. But I agree with the statement completely. This is what the Electoral College is for, is so that we do not elect a demagogue, somebody who cannot practice the foreign policy and national defense of the country appropriately, and one who has played fast and loose with the rules of conflicts of interest.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you consider yourself a Hamilton elector?
CHRISTOPHER SUPRUN: In the sense that I’m voting my conscience, absolutely.
AMY GOODMAN: Did you ever think you’d be in this position, Chris?
CHRISTOPHER SUPRUN: No. I’m an average person. I ran because, as you noted, I’m a paramedic firefighter. I responded to the 9/11 event. For me, that was the last time our nation was united and unified. I wish we could get back to that point. Unfortunately, I see from Mr. Trump again and again attacks on First Amendment, attacks on his critics, like our steelworker friend in Indiana last night. Anyone who he doesn’t believe is appropriate or worthy or perhaps the right color, he attacks them. That’s not America, and that’s not what we want as a nation, I don’t think.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you for being with us, Christopher Suprun, Republican presidential elector, one of the 538 people asked to choose officially the president of the United States. We’ll link to your piece in The New York Times, "Why I Will Not Cast My Electoral Vote for Donald Trump."
This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we’re going to talk about the recount, how it’s going, in Michigan, in Pennsylvania, in Wisconsin. Stay with us.