State’s votes go to Clin­ton af­ter one is re­placed

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Brian Ea­son and John Frank

Nine Colorado pres­i­den­tial elec­tors on Mon­day cast their votes for Hil­lary Clin­ton, win­ner of the gen­eral elec­tion in the state, but only af­ter one broke ranks and was re­placed.

In what usu­ally is a cer­e­mo­nial af­fair that rub­ber stamps the pop­u­lar vote in all 50 states, the meet­ing of Colorado’s Elec­toral Col­lege del­e­gates was de­railed mo­ments af­ter it be­gan. At­tor­neys phoned in a judge in a last-ditch ef­fort to un­bind elec­tors from the pop­u­lar vote and al­low them to vote as they pleased.

By the time votes fi­nally were cast at about 12:45 p.m. — 45 min­utes af­ter the cer­e­mony was sched­uled to be­gin — it was clear that the broader na­tional ef­fort to block Don­ald Trump from be­ing elected was des­tined to fail.

But Micheal Baca, a Demo­cratic Colorado elec­tor who was among the lead­ers of that ef­fort, cast a vote for Repub­li­can Ohio Gov. John Ka­sich, any­way — just mo­ments af­ter he took an oath to vote for Clin­ton.

The scene at the Colorado capi­tol dis­solved into a cho­rus of boos and shouts

as the tally was an­nounced and of­fi­cials moved to re­place Baca, as al­lowed un­der pro­ce­dures out­lined in a court hear­ing last week.

“You did not do your job,” one woman shouted at the elec­tors who voted for Clin­ton, as oth­ers be­gan to chant Baca’s name.

The crowd’s ire soon fo­cused on Sec­re­tary of State Wayne Wil­liams, as he tried to re­store or­der and re­move Baca for his un­law­ful vote.

“Threat­en­ing elec­tions is also against the law, Sec­re­tary Wil­liams,” Baca shouted at him.

Mo­ments af­ter the vote, Wil­liams reaf­firmed that the state law bind­ing elec­tors is nec­es­sary to en­shrine the will of the Colorado vot­ers.

“Colorado law since 1959 has pro­vided that you have a very spe­cific re­quire­ment as an elec­tor in Colorado,” he said. “You must vote as the Colorado cit­i­zens vote.”

In or­der to suc­ceed, the “Hamil­ton Elec­tors” group needed to con­vince 37 Repub­li­can elec­tors na­tion­wide to vote against Trump to deny him the 270 elec­toral votes needed to clinch the pres­i­dency. In re­cent weeks, Colorado be­came an un­likely test case for the move­ment when two Demo­cratic elec­tors, Polly Baca and Robert Ne­manich, filed le­gal chal­lenges seek­ing to un­bind their votes.

The le­gal bat­tle con­tin­ued Mon­day morn­ing when their at­tor­neys filed an emer­gency mo­tion ask­ing that the Den­ver Dis­trict Court re­quire Wil­liams to ad­min­is­ter an oath that has been used in years past.

That oath, which mir­rors lan­guage in the state con­sti­tu­tion, sim­ply re­quires the elec­tors to “faith­fully per­form the du­ties of the office.” Wil­liams had planned to have elec­tors swear also to vote for the win­ner of pop­u­lar vote in Colorado, Clin­ton.

A judge granted the elec­tors’ mo­tion, rul­ing that to es­tab­lish a new oath, the sec­re­tary of state would have to adopt a new elec­tion rule. Shortly af­ter, Wil­liams is­sued an emer­gency rule to cre­ate a new oath re­quir­ing the elec­tors to vote for the win­ner of the pop­u­lar vote.

The dis­pute spilled into the state­house as the vot­ing cer­e­mony be­gan, with at­tor­neys for both sides ar­gu­ing over the ap­pro­pri­ate­ness of the new rul­ing, while the pub­lic waited in the foyer.

In a con­fer­ence call with at­tor­neys, Den­ver Dis­trict Judge El­iz­a­beth Starrs ruled the is­sue was re­solved, and the of­fi­cials pro­ceeded with the vot­ing af­ter a re­cess.

“The oath is con­sis­tent and com­plies with my court or­der less than an hour ago,” Starrs said. She said the elec­tors could file a le­gal chal­lenge to the new rule, but it would not be heard un­til Jan­uary.

As the elec­tors con­tested the oath, a crowd of hun­dreds in the foyer and grand stair­case spon­ta­neously broke into song. The crowd sang “This Land is Your Land” and protest an­thems, such as “We Shall Over­come.”

Af­ter the votes were tal­lied and Micheal Baca was re­placed with Ce­leste Landry, the crowd pleaded with her to “vote her con­science.”

“The whole world is watch­ing,” the crowd be­gan to chant.

Landry, a 53-year-old from Boul­der, voted for Clin­ton. The other Clin­ton elec­tors had split opin­ions of what Baca did.

Robert Ne­manich, who was among the elec­tors who sued to be un­bound, said his vote for Clin­ton “was co­erced and com­pelled to vote by the op­pres­sion of the state.”

Elec­tor Jerad Sut­ton said he would have con­sid­ered join­ing the move­ment, but it was fu­tile.

“If there were 269 other peo­ple will­ing to do that, I’d do it too,” he said.

Amy Drayer, an elec­tor from Green­wood Vil­lage, said she was dis­ap­pointed that the so­called “faith­less elec­tor” move­ment up­staged what should have been a his­toric mo­ment for Colorado Democrats.

“The fact that Colorado is one of the states that by a pop­u­lar ma­jor­ity voted to send the first woman pres­i­dent to office, I’m dis­ap­pointed that that’s not what this is about,” Drayer said. “I was re­ally ex­cited to do my job today.”

Steve Bar­lock, a Repub­li­can elec­tor who watched the cer­e­mony, had a harsher take on how some of his Demo­cratic coun­ter­parts han­dled their duty.

“I find it pretty dis­gust­ing, ac­tu­ally,” he said.

The elec­tors pressed their le­gal case Mon­day af­ter the 10th U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals late Fri­day evening re­jected a sep­a­rate emer­gency mo­tion ask­ing the court to un­bind their votes.

That rul­ing, even as it was a de­feat for the elec­tors, had of­fered a glim­mer of hope for the broader faith­less elec­tor move­ment. In a foot­note, the fed­eral court sug­gested that the sec­re­tary of state’s plans to re­move an elec­tor if they vote the wrong way may be un­con­sti­tu­tional.

“We deem such an at­tempt by the state un­likely in light of the text of the Twelfth Amend­ment,” the court wrote.

But even as it sug­gested that the sec­re­tary of state’s ac­tions may be il­le­gal, the 10th Cir­cuit re­jected the elec­tors’ broader ar­gu­ment that Alexan­der Hamil­ton’s es­say, Fed­er­al­ist 68, pro­vided in­sight into the in­tended role of the Elec­toral Col­lege.

Wil­liams, who has sug­gested that faith­less elec­tors could face a crim­i­nal charge, said he would re­fer the mat­ter to the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s office, say­ing “I be­lieve when you take an oath, you should fol­low that oath.”

Out­side Colorado’s state capi­tol, more than 100 pro­test­ers had gath­ered by mid-morn­ing to protest Trump’s elec­tion.

“I feel like if there’s ever a time that the Elec­toral Col­lege should do its job, it’s now,” said Julie Lyke, 52, who came from Fort Collins to at­tend the protest. “If we don’t use it now, why use it at all?”

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