In the wake of Donald Trump’s stunning upset in Tuesday’s presidential election, many people are turning to the Electoral College with the hope that faithless electors might break ranks with the voters of their state and instead give Hillary Clinton the White House. They could also, if they choose, give Trump additional votes instead. But why stop there? Faithless electors can, in theory, do all sorts of crazy stuff.
For instance, a faithless elector could cast some sort of outrageously stupid protest vote for somebody like, say, Deadpool.
It’s exactly as crazy as it sounds, but it’s not, constitutionally speaking, impossible. Technically.
Such a vote would be pointless, of course. Deadpool is a fictional character, meaning that he is ineligible to hold the office of the presidency on account of not existing. Ryan Reynolds, the actor behind the Merc With a Mouth, is Canadian, meaning he couldn’t be president either.
As the recent talk of faithless electors has established, however, members of the electoral college have the ability to vote for someone other than the person that the majority of people in the state they’re representing voted for. Usually, people assume this just means that faithless electors will just cast their vote for the other guy — like voting for Clinton instead of Trump. But there’s no rule that they have to do that.
“There have been 82 electors in history who did change their vote for sincerely held reasons, to other candidates,” Scott Bomboy, the editor-in-chief at the National Constitution Center, explained to Inverse. In 2004, for instance, one elector voted for John Edwards even though he was the vice president on the Democratic ticket. In 1820, an elector named William Plummer Sr. voted for John Quincy Adams even though he wasn’t on the ballot at all instead of voting for the real Republican candidate, James Monroe. Faithless electors can — and have — voted for candidates who weren’t on the ballot.
In three instances, faithless electors abstained from voting rather than cast a ballot. These two things being the case, it’s possible — stupidly, stupendously unlikely, yes — but possible that a future elector could write-in a fictional character or otherwise ineligible candidate as an absurdist protest vote.
Bomboy says that we shouldn’t get our hopes up for such an absurd event, though.
“I don’t think an elector would ever vote for a fictional character as a protest, because electors are local party officials or office holders, and they value their reputation,” he explained.
So, there might actually be a limit to how stupid U.S. politics can get. There’s always 2020, Deadpool.