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Third ‘Hamilton’ elector joins lawsuit against Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams

Author: Ernest Luning - September 21, 2017 - Updated: September 22, 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)

Colorado Democrat Michael Baca, one of the so-called “Hamilton electors” who tried to derail Donald Trump’s presidential win in the Electoral College, has signed on to a federal lawsuit charging Secretary of State Wayne Williams with voter intimidation because he wouldn’t allow Baca to vote for someone other than the winner of Colorado’s popular vote.

“Our objective is to affirm a constitutional principle,” Baca said in a statement released Wednesday by Equal Citizens, the legal advocacy group spearheading the lawsuit. “That principle is critical to our Framers’ design for electing the President. It is critically important that the courts clarify the rights of electors, so that the uncertainty that surrounded the 2016 vote does not repeat itself in the future.”

Baca is the third Colorado elector to join the suit, which was filed by Polly Baca (unrelated to Michael Baca) and Robert Nemanich in August.

Although Democrat Hillary Clinton defeated Trump in Colorado by 5 percent of the vote — and won the popular vote nationwide — the Colorado three electors were part of a group across the country that tried to convince electors to vote for someone other than Clinton or Trump, thereby handing the election to a compromise candidate. Their goal was to convince at least 37 Republican electors in states Trump won to vote for someone else, which would have sent the contest to Congress.

Michael Baca, a Bernie Sanders supporter, attempted to vote for Republican John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, when the electors met at the state Capitol in December for what has typically been a largely ceremonial occasion, but Williams replaced him based on a court ruling that said the state’s elector’s were required by law to vote for the candidate who won Colorado’s vote. Polly Baca, Nemanich and the other electors cast their votes for Clinton, and Trump became the nation’s 45th president.

Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard law professor and a leader of the group suing Williams, said constitutional principles are at stake.

“The Constitution vests in Electors the choice for whom they will vote,” Lessig said in a written statement. “Subject to a single limitation specified by the Constitution, that discretion is reserved to them, and them alone. When Secretary Williams removed Micheal Baca as an elector because of his vote, Williams violated both Baca’s federal constitutional rights and a clear directive of the 10th Circuit (Court of Appeals). We will ask the federal courts to affirm the Constitution’s plan by declaring that the actions of Secretary Williams violated Plaintiffs’ rights.”

In August, when the suit was initially filed, Williams dismissed the allegations and called it a settled matter.

“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,” Williams said in a statement.

“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.”

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman last month declined to file charges against Michael Baca, saying instead she wanted to see statutes improved to “thwart any future efforts to undermine the voters’ intent.”

Lessig and Denver attorney Jason Wesoky are representing the electors, who are seeking $1 in damages in the case.

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. Since 2009, he has been the senior political reporter and occasional editor for The Colorado Statesman.


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