Election 2016News

Federal judge dismisses Hamilton electors’ lawsuit against Secretary of State Wayne Williams

Author: Marianne Goodland - April 10, 2018 - Updated: April 11, 2018

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Michael Baca, center, speaks after arguments in a lawsuit were heard in December 2016 outside the federal courthouse in downtown Denver. (AP file photo)

A lawsuit filed by a trio of so-called Hamilton electors against Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams has been dismissed, according to a news release sent by Williams’ office. But the attorney for the trio says they will appeal the decision, all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.

The three electors sued Williams in 2017, claiming he violated their constitutional rights to vote for the candidate of their choice in the 2016 Electoral College vote.

On Dec. 19, 2016, the day of the Electoral College vote, Williams replaced one of the three electors, Micheal Baca, when Baca announced he would vote for someone other than Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, who won the popular vote in the 2016 election and, with that, Colorado ‘s nine electoral votes. Baca, who voted for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, was replaced on the spot by Celeste Landry of Boulder, who cast her ballot for Clinton.

The reason for voting for someone other than Clinton had to do with a nationwide effort to deny then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump the 270 Electoral College votes required to win the presidential contest. In the end, Trump won 304 votes, more than enough to bypass the protest.

Former state Rep. Polly Baca of Denver (no relation to Micheal Baca) and Robert Nemanich of Colorado Springs also voted for Clinton, but under protest. They were the other two parties in the lawsuit against Williams. Last October, the parties agreed to a settlement, where the plaintiffs would seek only $1 in damages and the secretary of state would waive any claims of immunity against the state.

Williams rewrote the electors’ oath shortly before the Electoral College vote, including a new statement that said the elector would vote for the presidential candidate who received the highest number of votes in the preceding general election. The nine Democratic electors were given that oath shortly before the vote, and several told this reporter at the time they did not see it prior to casting their ballots.

A total of seven electors in three states officially cast votes for someone other than the winner of those states’ presidential contests. The name “Hamilton electors” refers to a statement in Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist Paper No. 68 that says electors “should vote their conscience for the good of the country.” Hamilton electors are also referred to by opponents of their protest as “faithless electors.”

On Tuesday, U.S. District Court Senior Judge Wiley Y. Daniel dismissed the lawsuit, stating he rejected the claim based on plaintiff’s lack of standing as well as an inability to produce “a claim upon which relief can be granted.”

“According to the binding court decisions faithless electors can be removed, which preserves the votes of the nearly 3 million Coloradans who cast their ballots in the November election,” Williams said in an earlier statement and repeated Tuesday. “The only thing I asked the electors to do was follow the law.”

Attorney Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard law school professor who is on the board of Equal Citizens US, which represented the plaintiffs, told Colorado Politics Tuesday they will appeal the decision all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary. “We look forward to the fight.”

Williams later asked Attorney General Cynthia Coffman to look into perjury charges against Micheal Baca after Baca took the revised oath and voted for Kasich anyway, but Coffman declined.

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland