The old college try: Electoral system shaken, calls for recounts underline tensions in US

From recount efforts to criticism of the Electoral College as an institution and death threats to some electors, the aftermath of the US presidential election has become no less controversial than the campaign itself – and the heat is far from over.

Jill Stein-initiated efforts to recount votes

The recount effort underway in three states – Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania – spearheaded by Green Party candidate Jill Stein is being opposed in all states by lawsuits from Donald Trump supporters.

On Friday, a lawsuit was filed on the President-elect’s behalf to stop the ballot review in Michigan, the state where Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by 10,700 votes. Unless a court intervenes, a recount could start in that state as soon as next Wednesday.

While Stein has asked a federal judge to order Michigan to quickly begin the recount, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has stepped in with an effort to “immediately” prohibit the recount.

“The Attorney General asks this Court to immediately issue a writ of mandamus to prohibit the recount of presidential ballots because Stein is not an aggrieved candidate under Michigan law,” Republican Schuette wrote in his lawsuit, stressing that Stein only received approximately one percent of the nearly 4.8 million ballots cast in the state on November 8. 

Prior to that, in Wisconsin, two pro-Trump super PACs filed a lawsuit in the Western District of Wisconsin, arguing that Stein is “not entitled” to a ballot recount, warning that the whole effort could “cast doubt on upon the legitimacy of President-Elect Donald J. Trump’s victory.”

Trump, who is touring part of the US with his “Thank You Tour,” made the same claims in a lawsuit filed on his behalf by the Republican Party and his campaign in Pennsylvania.

Their main argument points to Stein’s failure to provide any evidence that the state’s electronic voting machines had malfunctioned or been hacked.

“There is no evidence – or even an allegation – that any tampering with Pennsylvania’s voting systems actually occurred,” a complaint by Trump’s lawyers read.

Electoral College under fire

The institution of the Electoral College, which secured Trump’s victory despite Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote, is under attack from petitions requesting that it be abolished or that the election results be reconsidered.

Quite a number of US media outlets came up with opinion pieces calling for abolishing Electoral College.

A petition calling upon electors in the Electoral College to ignore their states votes and make Hillary Clinton president instead of Trump has gained a record number of signatures – over 4.7 million.

READ MORE: Clinton supporters petition to force Electoral College to vote for her December 19 

“Why? Mr. Trump is unfit to serve. His scapegoating of so many Americans, and his impulsivity, bullying, lying, admitted history of sexual assault, and utter lack of experience make him a danger to the Republic,” the petition states, adding “there is no reason Trump should be President. It’s the ‘People’s Will.’”

Several Electoral College electors resigned to avoid casting their votes for Trump, and at least seven more, Democrats in Colorado and Washington State who call themselves the Hamilton Electors, will not vote for either Trump or Clinton and cast protest votes for a candidate not named.

These Hamilton Electors are planning to try to convince Republican electors to vote for a third candidate in the hope that this move may put the Electoral College into deadlock or elect a different candidate.

‘Throw yourself in front of a bus’: Electors harassed ahead of December 19 vote

Electors who are to cast their votes for Trump say they are being harassed. One of the most recent cases involved Michigan Electoral College member Michael Banerian, who says he will vote for Trump despite receiving death threats.

Banerian told RT that he has received “hundreds and hundreds of e-mails, Facebook messages, and letters to my home about four or five a day, tweets.”

“And in some messages, unfortunately, there were death wishes and generally angry messages from people who can’t accept the results of the US election,” he said.

Earlier, in interviews with the US media, Banerian claimed that he had received death threats saying “I’m going to put a bullet in the back of your mouth,” and other ill wishes, such as “I hope you die” or “do society a favor and throw yourself in front of a bus.”

According to Banerian, abolishing the Electoral College “would leave so many Americans’ voices out of the process.”

“[It is] One of those situations is when you are on a losing side and look for every possibility to change the outcome so that you can come out on top, and right now we have people on the left, they are upset with Donald Trump winning,” he said.

Texas’ elector Alex Kim, who also says he has received threats, told the US media that he responds with a simple message: “You may all go to hell, and I shall go to Texas.”

Although none of the above-mentioned political maneuvers is likely to prevent Trump from being sworn in on January 10, they pour oil onto the fire of political divisions burning throughout the country.

It’s ridiculous that people in the US are being pressured and even threatened into violating their agreements for the sake of a “political coup d’etat,” Arvin Vohra, Vice Chair of the Libertarian National Committee, told RT.

“The fact that this is happening just shows how out of touch a lot of big government folks have become. Over the last 8 years, the Democratic Party has been in power and they’ve become more and more insulated; they’ve stopped listening to other people’s opinions,” he said.

“The Democrats, who previously were in charge, are all of a sudden terrified. They don’t know what’s happening. As they’ve just not been listening to the American people for 8 years. Even though Trump did not win the popular vote, he still won the electoral vote. The time to have a discussion about the role of the Electoral College would have been before the election, but not after results that a lot of people don’t like have come in.”