A Colorado Springs man is one of two members of the Electoral College suing the state in a long-shot attempt to prevent Donald Trump’s ascension to the presidency.
In documents filed Tuesday in federal court, the electors argue that a state law that requires them to vote for the presidential and vice presidential candidates that won Colorado’s popular vote is unconstitutional.
If the law is struck down, members of the Electoral College could work with other Republicans and Democrats to choose an alternative to President-elect Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence, said Robert Nemanich, who’s listed as a plaintiff in the case along with former Democratic state representative Polly Baca.
The plan would require that at least 270 electors agree to cast their votes for officials who are not on the presidential and vice presidential ballots when the Electoral College convenes on Dec. 19.
Under the statute, Colorado’s nine electors must vote for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who won the popular vote in the state and nationwide but did not garner enough electoral votes to win the presidency.
“We’re filing (the lawsuit) to free up our capability so that we can vote our conscience depending on what options are available to us,” said Nemanich, a high school math teacher.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Denver, names Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and Secretary of State Wayne Williams as defendants. In the documents, Baca and Nemanich request a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to bar state officials from enforcing the law.
Williams blasted the lawsuit in a statement issued Tuesday, saying “the court should reject this illegal conspiracy.”
“Make no mistake, this is not some noble effort to fight some unjust or unconstitutional law; rather, this is an arrogant attempt by two faithless electors to elevate their personal desires over the will of the entire people of Colorado,” Williams said.
A spokesperson for Williams’ office said it’s considered a misdemeanor when a public officer violates election code.
According to the complaint, the law, as well as a statement Williams made threatening to remove and replace electors that did not follow it, is unconstitutional because it violates Article II of the U.S. Constitution, as amended by the 12th Amendment, which outlines the process for electing the presidency but does not state that electors must choose the winner of the state’s popular vote.
The statute and Williams’ alleged threat also go against the freedom of speech established by the First Amendment, the guarantee of equal protection under the laws provided by the 14th Amendment and the Founding Fathers’ intention that electors “be a deliberative and independent body free to cast votes for whomever they deem to be the most fit and qualified candidates,” the complaint states.
Nemanich described the Electoral College as “stopgap to electing someone unfit for the office of the presidency,” citing Alexander Hamilton’s 68th installment of the Federalist Papers, also mentioned in the complaint.
Along with several other Colorado electors that have voiced support for the lawsuit and a group of Electoral College members in Washington state who plan to file a similar lawsuit, Nemanich and Baca have joined the so-called .
Jason Wesoky, a Denver attorney representing Nemanich and Baca, “is one of the ‘Hamilton Defenders,’ a group of attorneys providing free legal counsel for the electors “who want to save the Republic from a demagogue,” Wesoky said in an email.
The complaint also includes a litany of reasons why Trump and Pence are “unfit” choices for the presidency and vice presidency.
Also mentioned is the 1952 case of Ray v. Blair, in which the Supreme Court ruled that electors could be required to sign a pledge to vote for the winner of the popular vote but did not specify whether legal penalties for violating the contract were constitutional.
If the court rules in favor of Colorado’s Hamilton Electors, Nemanich said he is “cautiously optimistic” that the efforts to stop Trump’s election could be successful after recent conversations with multiple Republican electors. Members of the Electoral College who support the plan have eyed former presidential candidates John McCain and Mitt Romney as alternatives, he told The Gazette on Saturday.
A spokesperson from Coffman’s office declined to comment on the lawsuit. Hickenlooper’s Office had not responded to a request for comment Tuesday afternoon.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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