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Colorado’s wayward electors are back in the news, filing another suit

Author: Dan Njegomir - August 16, 2017 - Updated: August 16, 2017

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Colorado elector Polly Baca, second from left, holds up her completed ballot during the Electoral College vote at the Capitol in Denver, Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. Colorado's nine Democratic electors cast their votes for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton after one elector, Micheal Baca, part of the group known as the Hamilton Electors, was removed from the panel for voting for another candidate. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)Colorado elector Polly Baca, second from left, holds up her completed ballot during the Electoral College vote at the Capitol in Denver, Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. Colorado’s nine Democratic electors cast their votes for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton after one elector, Micheal Baca, part of the group known as the Hamilton Electors, was removed from the panel for voting for another candidate. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

…But our working assumption is they won’t get even 15 minutes of notoriety this time around. You do remember Democrats Polly Baca and Robert Nemanich; they were Colorado’s dissident delegates to the Electoral College who hatched a plot with a handful of like-minded electors in other states to derail Donald Trump’s ascent to the presidency. They dubbed themselves the “Hamilton Electors.” Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams just called them “faithless.”

That was last December, after the November election in which Trump’s victory had blindsided the press and political establishment.

Though Colorado’s electorate awarded the state’s electoral votes to Hillary Clinton, Baca and Nemanich planned to band together with electors of other parties in other states to cast their votes for another Republican than Trump on the assumption that any other Republican would be better, even to Democrats such as they. It was a bold if futile notion.

After a series of stunts including some legal rope-a-dope by their lawyers — suing to release the duo from their pledge to vote for the winner of Colorado’s popular vote — Baca and Nemanich and the rest of Colorado’s electors met at the Capitol Dec. 19 as scheduled and voted as they were supposed to (though another holdout refused and was replaced). And Donald Trump became president.

The whole affair couldn’t have unfolded at a better time for its instigators, during the holiday lull when the media have little else of urgency to write about in the political world. All the same, we’d thought they were history after that.

Not quite, as it turns out. The Secretary of State’s Office informed us via press release this week:

Two Colorado presidential electors announced today they are suing Secretary of State Wayne Williams, saying his refusal to allow them to vote for someone other than the presidential winner in Colorado violated their constitutional rights.

The lawsuit comes just 12 days after the same two electors, Polly Baca of Denver and Robert Nemanich of Colorado Springs, dismissed a similar claim that they had filed in U.S. District Court in Denver. The pair lost their preliminary hearing in that court case.

And though the office itself is being sued, its press shop was nice enough to include some verbiage from Baca and Nemanch’s lawyer:

“Polly Baca and Robert Nemanich believed the special circumstances of the last election required that they vote their conscience, contrary to a pre-election pledge,” attorney Lawrence Lessing announced in a news release from the group Equal Citizens. “Secretary Williams took the egregious step of threatening them with removal, as well as criminal prosecution, if they did so.”

Williams’s comeback also was in the statement from his office:

“The question of removal was directly raised in the state court and the judge ordered that an elector who does not vote as Coloradans voted can be removed. That binding decision was appealed by these same two electors, and their appeal was denied by the Colorado Supreme Court…”

“According to the binding court decisions faithless electors can be removed, which preserves the votes of the nearly three million Coloradans who cast their ballots in the November election. The only thing I asked the electors to do was follow the law.”

Nevertheless, their quest sputters on for now.

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir is a blogger and opinion editor for Colorado Politics. A longtime journalist and more-than-25-year veteran of the Colorado political scene, Njegomir has been an award-winning newspaper reporter, an editorial page editor, a senior legislative staffer at the State Capitol and a political consultant.