How Electors Are Responding to the Letter-Writing Campaign
Some feel threatened. Others send their compliments.
[updated 15 December 2016, 12:19 EST, to reflect that Baoky Vu and Art Sisneros’s resignations/replacements will not officially take place until December 19]
[updated 6 December 2016, 18:14 EST, with information on the Utah electors and a legal challenge to state laws binding faithless electors]
[updated: 5 December 2016, 17:53 EST after Texas elector Chris Suprun declared he will not be voting for Trump]
[updated: 29 November 2016, 08:47 EST to reflect Texas elector Art Sisneros’s resignation, add new statements from Texas elector Alex Kim, and add Kansas electors]
[updated: 27 November 2016, 06:43 EST — added Florida electors Susan Moore and Jeremy Evans, and added information about Utah]
A thought exercize: Consider one of your foundational beliefs. Maybe it’s “women should be equal to men.” Maybe it’s “God exists.” Maybe “cats are better than dogs.” Maybe “it’s dangerous to disobey traffic laws.” Maybe “organic produce is in some way superior to conventional agriculture.”
Now imagine that thousands of complete strangers who live far away from you e-mail to say you that you’re wrong and are ruining this country. Does it change your mind? Or are you all the more determined to fight for the rights of women while singing hymns and sharing cute pictures of your cat?
I’m guessing the second.
You don’t have to take my word for it. We’ve already seen this in the antivaxx movement.
Study: You can't change an anti-vaxxer's mind
A new study examined multiple strategies for communicating about the safety and importance of vaccines. None of them…
Or, you know, here:
It’s called “the backfire effect” — but it doesn’t really need a fancy name. It’s obvious if you think the people who believe things are people. Are their own people. Not copies of you. Not a faceless mob.
Does this mean that any attempt to contact an elector is automatically bad and will definitely backfire? No. It means successful persuasive writing is different from self-expression, just like a resume isn’t a manifesto. If you’re writing to make yourself feel better, you are probably not communicating effectively. If you find it easier to write blindly to a total stranger than to discuss political disagreements with close family members who you know very well, and who love you, maybe sit with that for a second.
A week into the letter-writing campaign, some (though not all) of the electors have given interviews about where their heads are at. They’re a diverse group of people, and they come from radically different state political cultures. (The whole red state/blue state divide papers over the fact that red states are different from red states and blue states are different from blue states.)
I’ve compiled their statements below, state by state. If you don’t want to go through the whole thing, here’s a summary:
Whatever the high theory is about what our Founding Fathers wanted electors to be, what the electors in red states are is Republicans who are Republican enough to go to a Republican convention and sign up as Republican electors. (In a state Trump won, his party staffs the electors.) They maybe had to run in a small election for the position. They may already be state officers in the Republican party. Even if their state at large treats electors as “free” instead of “bound,” they maybe signed an affadavit with the Republican party, promising to vote according to its will.
In other words, their Republicanism is important to them. And in a time of turmoil and uncertainty, something they know is morally true is that they signed on to represent their state’s Republicans. Attorney and legal analyst Lisa Bloom has volunteered to represent any elector who gets into legal trouble for going rogue, but fear of reprisal isn’t exactly what’s driving this group. They made a promise. And they didn’t make it out of ignorance; they’re highly involved in politics and follow the details as closely as some people follow announcements about the Star Wars prequels.
Regarding the e-mails, a few of them are into the political nerdery and opportunity for debate across state lines. Most of them are really not.
Alabama is one of the states that legally binds its electors to vote for the candidate that wins the statewide popular vote. There is currently a legal challenge underway in Colorado, seeking to free all electors, but none of the laws have yet been overturned.
Elector Elbert Peters, in an interview with WHNT News 19: “It’s not a consideration to me, but it’s loyalty to myself. I’m going to do what I’m supposed to do.” Alabama is one of the five poorest states in the U.S., and he worries in a very granular way about Democrat-backed programs he doesn’t think the state can afford.
Elector Will Sellers, in an interview with The Tennessean, said of the e-mails, “they’ve just wasted a lot of everybody’s time,” although he appreciates that concerned Americans are staying involved in the democratic process. He’s a lawyer with a degree in History and Political Economics which he got at a college which doesn’t accept federal funding. He is very concerned about both tax law and ballot security.
Elector Robert Graham, the chairman of the state Republican party: “It is total harassment.” He is a popular pro-business investment banker who has run for Arizona governor. He wrote a book called Job Killers: The American Dream in Reverse, about the dangers of unionization. The success of the Republican party, particularly in areas of business regulation, matters to him.
Elector Bruce Ash, also the GOP national committeman, says he has “an obligation to the majority of the voters in Arizona who voted for him … and honoring their vote.” Following this rule matters to him. As early as June, when there was talk within the Republican party of trying to replace Trump at the convention, he said that he’d be “fighting any rules change that takes the delegates’ votes away from where they were originally intended.” He said this even though Trump was nowhere near his first choice. He is himself Jewish and is appalled by e-mails which call him (whether directly or by extension) an anti-Semitic bigot. “They are hateful,” he says.
Elector Sharon Geise believes the more than 8000 e-mails she has received are a coordinated effort by the Clinton campaign, essentially junk mail. “She has to stop all of this,” says Geise. “This is ridiculous.”
Alberto Gutier, who works at the Office of Highway Safety, didn’t say anything specifically negative about the content of the e-mails, but noted that quite a few of them are being misdirected to his son and to his workplace. He’s a cool guy, actually. In 2008, he ran for state senate on a “commonsense” platform opposing private prisons and advocating for more money in K-12 education.
Florida is one of the states that legally binds electors to follow the statewide popular vote.
Elector Susie Wiles ran Trump’s campaign in Florida. Speaking to Robert Alonso on WOTV, she said in regards to the national popular vote, “For me, it’s immaterial. I fully intend to vote for my presidential candidate and his running mate.” Back in October, when fellow Florida Republicans asked how she could support Trump in the wake of several scandals, she told the Tampa Bay Times, “The Donald Trump that I have come to know does not behave that way, and the lens that I look at him through, I don’t see any of that. I see strengths, I see smarts, I see a work ethic that is unparalleled. I blanch sometimes. But, again, it’s not the Donald Trump that I have come to know.”
Elector John Falconetti has simply said he plans to stick with Trump. He runs a printing press founded by his grandparents which employs a lot of people in Jacksonville. He’s trying to shepherd it through the economic transition from print to digital. He cares about fiscal conservatism. He’s an Episcopalian married to an Olympic gymnast who runs a kid-focused charity. He is a past board member of both the National Board of Directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and the Jacksonville Symphony. He has been honored by the American Red Cross of Northeast Florida. He sounds like a good guy.
Elector Pam Bondi is on Trump’s transition team. Trump is the star to which she has hooked her political wagon. If you recognize her name, it’s because as Florida Attorney General, she dropped a fraud investigation against Trump University when Trump donated $25,000 to her super pac. Which she solicited. On Fox Business Network, she replied to criticism of this decision by saying “Hillary Clinton will not bully me.” So bullying is out as a persuasive tool, but keep e-mailing her if you can offer tens of thousands of dollars.
Elector Michael Barnett told USA Today’s Pensecola News Journal that even if he was unbound, he wouldn’t flip his vote. “I wouldn’t. I’m a strong supporter of Donald Trump.” He is the first black chairman of the Palm Beach County Republicans, so if you think he doesn’t care about black issues and doesn’t have talking points prepared when people call the party racist, you are mistaken. In a July interview with The Palm Beach Post, he said he wishes Trump would do more evangelical outreach.
Elector Joe Negron, Florida’s incoming state senate president, thinks the e-mails are “ridiculous” and sound “like sour grapes,” according to the Pensecola News Journal. He’s a lawyer with a masters in Public Administration from Harvard. He’s interested in making sure land use regulations protect the environment but also give managers leeway to respond to situations on the ground; thinks patients should be able to sue HMOs and should be able to see specialists without a referral; and has introduced legislation to reduce eyewitness misidentification of suspects. In other words, he’s a moderate working within the system. He originally supported Jeb Bush.
Elector Bill Patterson is sincere about following the law and doing the job he signed up for. He told the Pensecola News Journal, “It’s an oath that we take seriously. I’m fairly sure the consequences would be swift and severe in their respective counties.” He’s a retired police supervisor from New York. He’s on the board of a no-kill non-profit animal shelter. He supports Florida acquaculture (fish farming).
Elector Susan Moore told the Pensecola News Journal that some of the e-mails she has received have seemed like copy-paste jobs, “but a lot of them are rather crazy.” She adds that “When it comes down to it, I think these people mean well. But they’re asking us to do something that’s really not going to work out the way they want.” She is a paralegal who majored in political science at Vanderbilt University. She supported Jeb Bush in the primary. She is the GOP chairman of Escambia County, and a long-time volunteer with the party before acheiving that post. In an interview with The Talahasee Democrat, she was gracious about the e-mail onslaught, saying, “Who doesn’t want to be considered one of the most important people on earth? They also ‘believe’ in me, which means a lot.”
Elector Jeremy Evans is another member of the Escambia County Republican Executive Committee. On the podcast Pensecola Speaks, he said that Although Florida does not have a law punishing faithless electors, it’s his belief that since he filed a signed and notarized oath with Florida’s Secretary of State, he believes “it would be a felony to violate that oath.” In an interview with WEAR, he noted that the e-mails he receives have shifted from asking him to vote for Hillary to asking him to vote a compromise pick like Kasich or Rubio, but he intends to stick with Trump, who won the popular vote in Florida, per his oath. Although he believes the e-mails come from “people with good hearts and good intentions for the most part,” he noted that “In the span of eight days I got about 1,800 emails and I had to the shut down my email account,” Evans said. “I’ve been contacted on email, I’ve been bribed, I’ve gotten phone calls and letters by mail.” He consideres this “annoying, but not harrassing.”
(direct quotes via Greg Bluestein in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution unless otherwise noted)
Elector Michael McNeely, state GOP chair, says “for all the efforts of those sending those out, there’s no wavering at all.” He is the highest-ranking African-American in the Georgia GOP. In June, he was kicked out of a Trump rally in Atlanta, and there’s speculation that some security dude assumed his blackness meant he was a protestor. He’s downplayed it. He’s an Eagle Scout who served in the National Guard and as an Atlanta police officer — so you can assume he’s a “law and order” guy. He has a degree in criminal justice. His belief in God is at the center of his life. He’s working to bring more minority voters into the Republican party.
Elector Kirk Shook, secretary of the Georgia Republican party, says “It just makes my resolve even stronger when you’re spamming my inbox every day.” (You can hear the audio at the link.) He’s a high school social studies teacher who was a finalist for Georgia Economics Teacher of the Year in 2016. He likes country music and football.
Elector Bruce Azevedo said he doesn’t mind the e-mails, and figures they come with the territory. He’s a real estate agent. He’s involved with the chamber of commerce. He seems like your classic old-school small-business conservative.
Elector Neil Pruitt ditto—doesn’t mind the e-mails. He’s the CEO of a healthcare company, so he probably cares about reforming Obamacare in a different way than you do (unless you are also running a healthcare company).
Elector Rachel Little is pretty sanguine about the e-mails, but notes that it’s easy for her because some of the “contact the electors” flyers get her phone number wrong, so they’re bugging some other random guy. (Said random guy is understandably annoyed about it.) She’s a paralegal. Her first choice was Ted Cruz, but she believes in a unified party.
Elector Linda Herren says the constant barrage is starting to feel like harrassment, “especially the phone call that came in at 6 a.m. yesterday,” which I think we can all relate to. She notes that her home has been vandalized — yard signs stolen, dirt smeared on her door. She’s a nurse anesthetist and has served in the Army reserve. She’s been involved in local Republican politics for more than 30 years.
Elector Bobbie Frantz says, “the people have spoken… and I’ll be voting for what the people of Georgia want.” (Donald Trump won the Republican primary in Georgia, with 39% of the vote. Second and third were Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, each with about 24%. Nobody else got out of the single digits.) She’s a retired legal administrator and an editor of a thrice-yearly magazine for and by female Republicans in Georgia.
Elector Randy Evans told Western Journalism that “some electors (not me) are questioning whether it is worth it,” and may resign under the onslaught. He is a very well-connected lawyer who is on the RNC’s rules committee and is a long-standing associate of Newt Gingritch, whose campaigns he chaired. He has helped prepare cases that have gone in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Elector Baoky Vu has declared his intention to resign rather than vote for Trump. This occurred under intense pressure from Georgia’s Republican party leadership. Vu is, however, still currently an elector; there is no mechanism for him to be replaced until the December 19 meeting of the Electoral College. He will have to tender his resignation then. In a statment reported in The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Vu said “Trump’s antics and asinine behavior has cemented my belief that he lacks the judgment, temperament and gravitas to lead this nation… Forget political incorrectness, this is simply despicable demagoguery.” He added, “I will always put America first over party and labels.” Vu is a first-generation immigrant who fled communist Vietnam when he was a child. He supported Marco Rubio in the Republican primary. He works at a business advisory firm in Atlanta.
As a note, given Baoky Vu’s experience, if there is a Georgia elector who plans to vote against Trump, he or she is likely to play it cool in the press, even though Georgia doesn’t legally bind its voters.
Elector Jennifer Locke told the Hagadone News Network that she’s avoiding people’s attempts at contact because they frighten her. “With the violence and the protests going on, you just don’t know how people’s emotions are right now,” she said. Unless I have her mixed up with another Jennifer Locke from Idaho, she has some concerns about Common Core. She noted, pointedly, that most of the messages she was getting were Oregon, California, New York, and Massachusetts — not Idaho.
Elector Layne Bangerter told The Spokesman-Review that “They attack my religion, they attack my politics, they tell me that I must be a terrible father, I must be a terrible American, they use foul language — every swear word. They’re just trying to steal this thing.” He was one of Senator Mike Crapo’s staffers for maybe a decade. (You may remember that Mike Crapo un-endorsed and then re-endorsed Trump.) He’s an LDS bishop, and in October he wrote a blog post stating that he strongly supports Trump because he believes Trump will preserve religious freedom, whereas Hillary Clinton would force Mormons to change their practices. He’s not saying that out of ignorance; he’s basing that on his reading of statements they’ve made, detailed in the blog entry.
I have not been able to find direct quotes from the other two Idaho electors, but Idaho’s Republican Secretary of State Lawerence Denney told The Idaho Statesman that all the Idaho electors feel harrassed, and to please direct your letters to them through his office in order to make this process more civil and less threatening.
Elector James Whitmer is already on board with the idea that Trump is, shall we say, problematic. He told KWWL “I don’t agree with everything that he’s done… despicable things that he has done, which I don’t agree with.” However, he’s adamant about his choice to cast his vote for Trump, because he likes Hillary Clinton even less, and voting for anybody other than those two would be “throwing my vote away.” He has a low opinion of protestors. “These people have looted. They have assaulted people.” He thinks anybody who is scared is just panicking and they’re going to be fine. He describes himself as “a ham” who became an elector on the spur of the moment. He has lived in Waterloo his entire life.
Elector Dylan Keller told The Courier that he’s trying to find the lighter side of the e-mails, and that he’s gotten 1000 in a single day. He said, “It is funny when it is supposed to be personalized but they use the wrong name. Some of the other electors across the country have replied all to these messages. Their comments are funny, and it’s creating a unified group fighting against these suggestions.” He’s a grad student at the University of Northern Iowa.
Elector Don Hayes published a letter to the editor in the Dubois County Free Press, stating in part, “The Electoral College is more of a process than an institution,” and continuing “I have received a great number of emails urging me to ignore the vote in the 8th District and Indiana and cast my votes for Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine. That’s NOT going to happen. I believe in playing by the rules.” He not only believes that changing his vote would be cheating, but that it would be cheating in a way that endangers our whole system of representative government.
(direct quotes via Mary Clarkin reporting for The Hutchinson News, unless otherwise noted)
Elector Ashley McMillan Hutchinson initially replied to e-mails, but they have crashed her server. She is passionate about attracting development to her small-town Great Plains community through grants and one-to-one outreach, and encourages young families to remain local by doing things like building up local parks. She loves her town. Based on her social media posts, it’s pretty clear she roots for Khaleesi in Game of Thrones, as do we all.
Elector Kelly Arnold, the Kansas Republican Chairman, estimates he has received 25,000 e-mails in total. “I receive around 500 emails an hour, 20 pieces of snail mail a day (this has slowed), phone calls, texts, Facebook messages, and linked-in messages,” said Arnold, but noted that different petitioners ask him to do different things — vote Romney, vote Kasich, send it to the House of Representatives. He’s establishment small-government Republican; his twitter feed praises Paul Ryan and Reince Preibus. He’s a financial services guy. Among other things, he manages the pension fund for Kansas public employees. He volunteers as a mentor to his church’s youth group, and has helped put together charity medical missions to South America. He’s a fourth-generation Kansan.
Elector Mark Kahrs, outgoing Republican state senator representing Wichita (he’s retiring after four years in office), similarly estimates he has received 25,000 e-mails. During his time in office, he championed the passage of legislation to move local elections to the Autumn to increase voter turnout by aligning with national elections. His campaign promises, which he believes he kept, were to lower taxes, cut spending, create jobs, and preserve righteousness and morality. He sponsored bills to establish a meditation room in the Kansas capitol, and to prevent the relocation of refugees to the state of Kansas. (It died in committee.) He supported Ted Cruz for the Republican nomination. He plans to vote for Trump “Absolutely, unequivocally, without question.” He is Kansas’s incoming Republican National Committeeman.
Elector Clayton Barker, the Kansas Republican Party Executive Director, does not expect any faithless electors, noting “The party selects as its slate of electors only people who are 100% reliable to vote for the winner of the state’s popular vote.” He is the type of person who says things like “Typical liberal KS media,” which is not how I myself would tend to characterize Kansas media. He’s a lawyer. On his watch, the state Republican Party made an effort to oust insufficiently conservative Kansas Supreme Court justices. If you really want to nerd out about the Kansas GOP, you can watch a one-hour presentation he gave on the history of the Republican Party in Kansas for the Wichita Pachyderm Club.
(direct quotes via Joseph Gerth writing for USA Today’s Courier-Journal unless otherwise noted)
Elector Jim Skaggs says he’s voting for Trump because although his “character issues are deplorable,” it’s a duty. “If the party chooses you, whether you like it or not, you’ve got a job to do.” He’s a retired contractor, and based on an August interview with Bloomberg, it seems Rand Paul is his neighbor and maybe friend, and he cares about Mitch McConnell’s opinion on things.
Elector Troy Sheldon says voting for Trump is “our responsibility,” but adds that he’s gotten fewer than a dozen e-mails. He’s a trophy hunter and outdoor sportsman (so maybe a fan of environmental protections) who believes in small government. His wife is a veteran who has run for office on a tea party platform. He says the e-mails he’s received have taken “a typical liberal stance,” and that he’s “all-in with Trump” because Obama’s policies have failed and it’s time for a change.
Elector Walter Reichert says “When you lose you lose.” I’m guessing he’s the same Walter Reichert who served in the Kentucky Senate in the 70s, where he was the sponsor of a bill to make a Commission on the Status of Women part of the state government, which was not a popular idea at the time. (Hats off to you, Walter Reichert.) If he’s that guy, he’s 87 years old. If he’s not, he’s got to be a close relative.
Elector Scott Lasley worries that letting electors vote for just whoever would cause chaos. “Throwing it to the House would be a mess,” he said. “It would be rigged.” He’s a college professor of political science.
Elector Michael Carter places a lot of importance on the idea of being “faithful,” partly in honor of his great uncle, who was a senator. “It’s too hard to go against my party,” he says. He’s a family doctor in a rural area.
Elector Mike Duncan, an ex Kentucky GOP chair, thinks the current system works and shouldn’t be changed. But he kind of enjoys imagining the what-ifs along with everybody else, saying “ it does make for a pretty interesting parlor game.” He is a lawyer and a lobbyist for clean coal, with a particular emphasis on technology development.
Elector Kay Katz said in an interview with The Ouachita Citizen that “I would never break my word… If you become faithless and turn away, you truly are faithless.” She also notes that she’s been with Trump all the way; she voted for him in the primary and the general. She likes him. She’s not sure whether the e-mails are coming from real people or “a robot in Bulgaria.” She’s thinking she’ll change her e-mail address. She’s a former member of the Louisiana House of Representatives. She’s a Presbyterian (like Trump but probably more sincerely) and former schoolteacher, and when she served on the Louisiana State Arts Council, the Louisiana Museum Association thought she did a great job. Her late husband worked for a coal company and helped run a food bank.
Ok, Michigan hasn’t been called yet. Also, their electors are bound. Nevertheless…
Elector Michael Banerian told The Detroit News he’s received death threats, some of them graphic and explicit (which several sources have confirmed). He says he is “not remotely interested in changing my vote.” He is a 22-year-old political science major, and youth vice chair of the Michigan Republican Party. He believes that by casting his vote faithfully, he’s sending a message that Millenials still have confidence in the elctoral college and American system of government.
Elector Kenneth Crider says he’s hasn’t gotten any threats, and has only gotten about 300 e-mails, mostly from people in other states, but is “100% behind Donald Trump.” He’s a heating and air conditioning professional who ran for state representative on the platform “pro jobs, pro life.”
Elector Jim Rhoades told Fox2 that he won’t vote for anyone but Trump because it would be illegal, noting that “if I were to vote for another candidate, say the Libertarian candidate, I could be removed as the elector and replaced with someone who would agree to do what the party dictates.” He owns a construction company, but his passion is motorcycles; he wants increased speed limits because it is fun to go fast on motorcycles. According to Politico, he became an elector to show the biker community is politically engaged. In support of Trump, he says, “Sometimes I think he’s acting like a 12 year old boy, and that bothers me. But he does have the right perspective, and he does make shit happen. That’s the one thing you have to know — if he says he’s going to do something, there’s a real good chance he’s going to do it.”
Elector Cherry Warren noted in an interview with Nexstar that he has a pretty good reason to stay faithful. “My home county here voted 78% for Trump. I think for someone to do otherwise, might be a little bit hard to come back home.” He’s a county commissioner with a background in banking who has had to deal with some very strained budgets. He has a small farm with cows and a variety of crops. (It sounds wonderful.) He cares about sustainable agriculture and farm subsidies.
North Carolina binds its electors.
Elector Lee Green told WRAL, “ I think is quite disturbing that we would not follow the will of the people,” and adds “Our country is so yearning for change, and I’m happy to be one who officially makes it happen.” She loves the GOP and dogs, and is the retired founding director of the letter-writing activist arm of CAMERA.org, a pro-Israel nonprofit that monitors media coverage for pro-Arab bias.
Elector John Olson e-mailed Western Journalism to say the receipt of hundreds of e-mails “ is harassment per se!” He is an attorney and former state senate minority leader, and is a state-level lobbyist for the tobacco and healthcare industries. He does not see a conflict of interest there, and his clients aren’t bothered by it.
Ohio binds its electors. (Direct quotes via USA Today’s Cincinatti.com unless otherwise noted.)
Elector Alex Triantafilou told that the e-mails are “preposterous,” the protests are “silly,” and “it’s time to move on.” He’s a partner at a law firm and has served as a judge and as a prosecutor. He volunteers with the high school mock trial program. He is Greek Orthodox.
Elector Mary Anne Christie, a former mayor, said she’d only received three e-mails and the Ohio GOP chairman told her to ignore them. She believes that if any elector switches, that’s the end of their career in Republican politics. Before becoming mayor, she served five terms on her local city council and was vice mayor. She worked for 20 years as a real-estate appraiser. She supports cutting red tape.
Elector Richard Jones, a county sheriff, is a longtime Trump supporter who spoke at a Trump rally in October. He very much fears that as a result of Black Lives Matter, his officers will be murdered. To this end, Fox 19 reports that he encourages his employees to concealed carry at all times and to remove police markings from their off-duty vehicles and clothing. In a department memo, he said, “Every day I fear for their lives every day, every minute, every second. When my phone rings I fear for that.” He has made funny social media videos to encourage the community to cooperate with police investigations as they fight a heroin epidemic. He is famous for his opposition to undocumented workers.
(all direct quotes from Chris Brennan’s article in The Philadelphia Inquirer unless otherwise noted)
Elector Bob Asher, a member of the Republican National Committee, says 350 of the 400 people who have contacted him seemed to use form e-mails. He says “ My position is I will support the person who won the [state] popular vote,” but that regarding the e-mails “In no case did I feel like they were threatening me or over-the-top communications.” According to ballotopedia, Asher has served as commissioner, as a board member for the Delaware River Port Authority, and on the Chesapeake Bay Advisory Board. He’s a veteran. He’s chaired statewide election campaigns for a lot of candidates. He’s on the board of directors of a chocolate company founded by his grandfather, and tries to promote Pennsylvania tourism. (So if you wanted to travel interstate to talk to him in person, but on your way to his office go see the Liberty Bell, the Mutter Museum, and historic Germantown, he’d probably say it’s a good idea.)
Elector Christine Toretti, also an RNC member, is similarly unfazed but unoffended. She says “I don’t mean to be disrespectful. It’s clear that it’s a campaign from some organization or a few organizations.” According to her formidable PA GOP bio, she has been the CEO of a large privately-owned drilling company, and has served on the boards of several nonprofits, including the International Medical Corps and The Andy Warhol Museum. She is the founding director of the Gettysburg Foundation. (If you make Civil War comparisons in your e-mails, make sure they’re real accurate.) She loves Renaissance artwork.
Elector Rob Gleason, chairman of the Pennsylvania Republican Party, has been deleting the e-mails without reading them. But he doesn’t see the harm in sending them, saying, “It is precipitated by the popular-vote thing. It’s fine. This is democracy. You can write letters. You can demonstrate.” He has served as trustee of both the University of Pennsylvania and Saint Francis University. He served in the Air Force and is the CEO of an insurance company founded by his grandfather. (You can bet he cares about estate tax.) He is Roman Catholic.
Tennessee binds its electors. (All direct quotes from Jake Lowary’s article in USA Today’s The Tennessean unless otherwise noted)
Elector Pat Allen said of the e-mails, which she deletes, “clearly I would call it harrassment.” Although she believes the e-mails are sincere and come from people who care a lot, she notes that none of them have come from within her congressional district. “Why in goodness name would I not represent my constituents?” she asks.
Elector Drew Daniel represents a county Clinton won by 30 percentage points. (It includes Memphis and is Tennessee’s only African-American-majority district.) Despite this, he says, “We do it statewide. I’m gonna stick to that; I don’t plan to change.” He is himself white, and fairly young. He is an accountant with degrees in Political Science and Public Administration. He has served on Memphis’s City Beautiful Commission (park maintenance, litter cleanup). His job has been described as “bankruptcy collector,” so presumably the failure rate of businesses is on his mind a lot.
Elector Lynne Davis says, “There’s no amount of money you could pay me.” (I guess save it for Florida’s Pam Bondi.) She’s a real estate agent; the housing market matters to her. She campaigned for Ted Cruz. She has given speeches about political involvement as a route to female empowerment. She cares about Benghazi.
Elector Art Sisneros declared his intention to resign on November 28 rather than vote for Trump. (He is not able to officially resign until the Electoral College meets on December 19.) He outlined his reasons in this blog post, concluding, “Since I can’t in good conscience vote for Donald Trump, and yet have sinfully made a pledge that I would, the best option I see at this time is to resign my position as an Elector. This will allow the remaining body of Electors to fill my vacancy when they convene on Dec 19 with someone that can vote for Trump. The people will get their vote. They will get their Skittles for dinner. I will sleep well at night knowing I neither gave in to their demands nor caved to my convictions. I will also mourn the loss of our republic.” Per The Texas Tribune, the Texas GOP has accepted his resignation.
According to a profile in Texas Monthly, Sisneros supported Rand Paul in the primary and considers himself a Libertarian. His Christianity is a central guide in his life, and is what led him to write-in an anti-abortion activist rather than vote for Trump in the general election. He resolved his decision in the general election by examining scripture, and following Trump’s election, got to work reading books about the history of the electoral college. He finds both Clinton and Trump unacceptable. He is strongly pro-life. He’s a welding supplies salesman from near Houston.
Elector Landon Estay told KHOU he’s had trouble keeping up with all the e-mails. “I never expected this whenever I became an elector,” he says. “But I did sign an affidavit with the Republican Party of Texas that says I will vote for the nominee.” He backed Marco Rubio in the primary. He’s a CPA, mostly for business clients, some of whom have complicated international tax issues. He’s a conservative Christian. In 2013, he wrote a blog entry about how frustrated he is when his party gets dragged into political infighting over ideological purity instead of going big-tent. He has young kids.
Elector Alex Kim told NBC 5 that he’s been getting thousands of e-mails a day, and although “at first everyone was kinda enchanted by it, now all the electors are starting to get beaten down.” But he says there’s no way he’ll vote for Hillary Clinton. “I reject the Democratic Party principles and I reject Hillary Clinton.” He’s a criminal defense lawyer from Fort Worth. He cares deeply about ethics and about avoiding the appearance of impropriety. According to his profile with the state bar, he understands Korean. When ex-elector Art Sisneros’s resigned on November 28, Kim pointed out to The Fort Worth Star-Telegram that any replacement elector will not have signed the pledge to vote for the GOP presidential nominee, and that he expects Texas electors will soon “be bombarded by people who want to be an alternate or elector.”
Elector Marian K. Stanko told Western Journalism that “harassment depends upon the patience of the recipient.” She’s annoyed when people send the same message to several of her multiple e-mail addresses. She thinks a lot of the people who contact her don’t understand the electoral process very well. She cares about ballot integrity. She’s from the San Antonio area.
Elector Will Hickman said that most of the thousands of e-mails he receives are form letters, but that “others are thoughtful and have led to good conversations.”
Elector L. Scott Mann reported that although most e-mails were polite, some included profanity. However, in his blog, The Sandstorm Scholar, he’s said the profane e-mails are not representative and 4/5 of the e-mails he receives are from women and that their love for HRC and fear of Trump are real. He says “the inescapable conclusion about the overwhelming majority of HRC supporters is they are fine Americans, thoughtful, courteous and engaged.” He does not, however, agree with their fears, which he thinks can demonstrate a lack of historical perspective. His e-mail signature is “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.” He notes that he is unabashedly Texascentric, but believes in the right of citizens to petition elected officials for redress of grievances, including electors.
Elector Marty Rhymes told KLTV, “I know there was a good reason and there still is a good reason that we have electors,” and “I appreciate everyone feeling like that they can, that I would be good representative for them.” However, she says “I certainly wouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton, and I wouldn’t vote for anyone else.” It’s her belief that the electoral college should resist popular voices; hence, she will not be swayed by public opinion. According to Politico, she has reservations about Trump (she supported Rick Perry) but believes a discredited conspiracy theory that links Hillary Clinton to several murders. She has a wonderful and very Texan sense of fashion.
Elector Chris Suprun declared in an Op Ed in The New York Times on December 5 that he will not be voting for Trump, and plans to cast his vote for a compromise Republican candidate like John Kasich. Suprun was not persuaded by the popular vote totals or by policy arguments. Instead, he was persuaded by Trump, who “lacks the foreign policy experience and demeanor needed to be commander in chief.” Suprun distruts Trump’s business ties and is alarmed by the appointments of “Leninist” Steve Bannon and General Michael Flynn, who has a “checkered past about rules.”
Specifically, Suprun would not trust Trump in a 9/11 situation. He is a firefighter who was a first responder at the Pentagon in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. He ran for elector partly to draw attention to the 15th anniversary of the attacks, which he thinks has been lost in Republicans’ frenzy over Benghazi, and is a founder of a foundation which trains first responders. He doesn’t see Trump as appropriately conservative, and has noted that he represents Dallas, which went for Clinton.
Suprun has been uncomfortable with Trump for some time. He told Politico in August that “The nominee is … saying things that in an otherwise typical election year would have you disqualified.” He was particularly concerned about Trump’s approach to military issues: “The generals are going to commit war crimes because I tell them to.” However, in a post-election interview with The New York Post, he walked that back and said he “always planned to vote for his party’s nominee.” Suprun’s core issue is terrorism, which he thinks the Democrats underemphasize. Although his December 5 NYT Op-Ed doesn’t mention them by name, it’s likely Suprun came to see Kasich as an option due to the efforts of the Hamilton Electors (a group of Democratic electors who agreed to throw their support to a moderate Republican alternative if Republican electors would join them).
Utah has some of the harshest laws concerning faithless electors; instead of fines, the rogue elector is immediately disqualified and replaced, without the faithless vote being counted. It is, in essence, not possible for a Utah elector to vote faithlessly. This is such a strict law, it is likely unconstitutional, according to Utah’s Republican Senator, Mike Lee, a former clerk to Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito whose name is occasionally floted as a future Supreme Court pick himself. However, the Utah law has not yet had to face a legal challenge, but may be affected by a related case which was filed in Colorado in early December.
Despite the lack of wiggle room, Utah’s Republican Party Chairman, James Evans, told KUTV, “I have had electors reach out to me about the statute, saying, do I have to vote for Trump?” which he blames on “an effort to try and confuse the electoral college voting process.” This suggests multiple (unnamed) Utah electors would prefer not to vote for Trump. Utah had an unusually high number of third-party votes in the general election; Trump received only 45.5% of the vote, Clinton 27.5%, and Evan McMullin 21.5%. McMullin is a Utah Republican who ran third party as an anti-Trump protest.
Peter Greathouse is a first-time elector who backed Ted Cruz in the primary. Of the letters and e-mails, he told KUER, “I’m kind of glad that I’m involved and get to see these opinions. I feel kind of bad that the people have a misunderstanding of what the electors do and of their power.” He dislikes Trump and became an elector partly to help Ted Cruz beat him. (Greathouse was on Cruz’s Utah leadership team.) He told Deseret News Utah, “I would like the electors to have a little more freedom in their choices. I also understand why the law is the way it is. But I would like to see the binding part looked at again.” However, as he noted in The Salt Lake Tribune, “I signed up knowing what the job was.” He is a fourth generation farmer/rancher.
Elector Richard Snelgrove told Deseret News Utah, “Trump carried Utah. He won it fair and square. No one elected me king to go in there and defy the will of the people.” This is his third time as elector. He told The Salt Lake Tribune, “I had a few requests then to vote for someone else, but nothing like this year.” He prefers the electoral college to the popular vote because it protects the influence of smaller states like Utah. He is a Salt Lake County Councilman. He likes to keep taxes low and transparency high. He runs a small travel agency which employs 13 people. He’s been a boy scout leader (he has sons), kid sports coach, and Election Observer to Latin America for the State Department under George HW Bush (Bush senior). He is passionate about hiking, no matter the weather.
Elector Kris Kimball is uncomfortable with the attention she’s getting from people outside of Utah, partly because, as she told Deseret News Utah, “They’re putting you on a guilt trip; that’s what they’re doing. They don’t understand there’s no choice in Utah.” She thinks Republican electors are highly unlikely to vote for a non-Republican, and questions whether people would be so vociferous about contacting electors if it had been Clinton who won the electoral college and Trump the popular vote. Kimball would have preferred Ted Cruz to Trump, but hates Hillary. She is co-host of the Liberty Mom Radio Show, and co-founded a summer camp that teaches Pre-Colonial and Early American History. She helped raise money to build a school in Kenya. She is passionately pro-life. She used to sell Mary Kay cosmetics, very successfully. She loves travel.
According to The Salt Lake Tribune, Elector Cherilyn Eagar was an early Trump supporter and thinks he’ll be a great president. She serves on Phyllis Schlafly’s national committee, and has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund court battles against gay marriage. She is a media consultant for Utah ranchers resisting “federal land grabs.” (She is not a fan of public land.) You can read more about her here. If you are a Democrat, it is very likely the two of you have nothing in common, except that she likes musical theatre and is an accomplished performer.
Elector Jeremy Jenkins told The Salt Lake Tribune that all but one of the messages he has received have come from outside Utah, and “I don’t pay attention to them because this is a Utah issue.” He adds that he is “an enthusiastic supporter of Donald Trump.” He is the president of a welding company that does some really beautiful, complex work.
Utah’s sixth elector, Chia-Chi Teng, has declined to speak to media when they have attempted to contact him, so he is likely not looking for attention. He is a BYU professor and former Microsoft software engineer whose parents fled Communist China after World War II. Earlier this year, he ran a self-funded long shot primary challenge against Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who he thinks spends too much. He is by all accounts kind, honest, and practical, and interested in giving back to his country. His priorities are the national debt, border security, and slashing government regulations, particularly for technology startups. He would prefer state rather than federal control of education policy.
Wisconsin’s electors are bound.
Elector Brian Westrate told WEAU, “I will absolutely be obeying the will of the people of Wisconsin.” He says he’s been getting around 60 e-mails a day, and although they won’t change his mind, “Anytime you have someone who bothers to understand the Electoral College look up an elector’s email address and then send them a private personal message — or even a group message — I think that that’s somebody that’s worth paying attention to.” He told Western Journalism that he usually replies with a “respectful” form letter, and the responses to it have similarly been “respectful and kind.” He did not support Trump, and was vocal about it, but thinks the law in Wisconsin is unambiguous.
States Where I Haven’t Found Any Interviews:
I couldn’t find electors who’d gone on the record in Alaska*, Arkansas, Mississippi*, Maine*, Montana*, Nebraska*, Oklahoma*, South Carolina*, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming* (starred states have bound electors).
I’m leaving the comments open in case anybody wants to link to further interviews; I’ll update as I can. However, I will be moderating heavily to remove any attacks on the electors as a whole, the electors individually, or the letter writers.
Please note that I have restricted my reporting to electors who have already chosen to speak to the press; I haven’t included contact information and haven’t tended to name electors’ businesses or family members. I will restrict comments accordingly.