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Washington state elector says he'd never vote for Clinton

  • Author: Jim Brunner, The Seattle Times
  • Updated: November 5, 2016
  • Published November 5, 2016

One of Washington state's Democratic presidential electors is vowing not to cast his Electoral College vote for Hillary Clinton, even if she wins the state on Election Day. Another elector says he is considering withholding his vote.

"No, no, no on Hillary. Absolutely not. No way," said Robert Satiacum, a member of Washington's Puyallup Tribe who had supported Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont as the Democratic presidential nominee.

He earlier told various media outlets that he was wrestling with whether his conscience would allow him to support Clinton and was considering stepping aside for an alternate elector. But on Friday, he sounded firm, even if the election is close.

"I hope it comes down to a swing vote and it's me," he said. "Good. She ain't getting it. Maybe it'll wake this country up."

Bret Chiafalo, a Democratic elector from Everett who is also a Sanders supporter, said he is considering exercising his right to be a "conscientious elector" and vote for the person he believes would be the best president.

"I have no specific plans, but I have not ruled out that possibility," he said.

Speaking from the site of protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline, Satiacum said he did not trust Clinton on tribal or environmental issues, and expressed anger that the Obama administration has not halted the project. The Associated Press first reported his decision Friday.

Satiacum is one of 12 people picked as Democratic electors at Washington's Democratic Party convention this year in Tacoma — a gathering dominated by supporters of Sanders, who won the state's caucuses in March.

While voters will cast the final ballots for presidential candidates Tuesday, the election is decided by 538 electors from the various states — with 270 voted needed to win. In all but two states, the winner of the popular vote is supposed to receive all of the state's electors.

If no presidential candidate were to reach 270 electoral votes, the election would be thrown to the U.S. House of Representatives, which would pick from the top three Electoral College vote-getters.

The electors meet Dec. 19 at state capitols to cast their College ballots. There is no constitutional requirement they follow their states' popular votes, but so-called "faithless electors" are a rarity and have never decided an election.

In Washington state, there is a $1,000 fine for electors who do not honor the election results.

Satiacum said the fine doesn't bother him and that he could not face his six children and 10 grandchildren if he cast a vote for Clinton. He was also critical of Republican Donald Trump and said he doesn't know what he'll do with his vote.

Chiafalo said he believes state laws that impose fines or other punishments for electors who do not follow the popular vote are unconstitutional.

He plans to create a website to educate electors from all political parties about their rights. The point is to raise awareness about the Electoral College.

"I don't think it's anyone's intention to try to do something crazy just to mix things up," he said.

Chiafalo said he believes the U.S. should ditch the Electoral College system because it is outdated in a modern society, "but as long as it is the law of the land we need to be honest about it and respect it."

Satiacum said he has been pressured by national tribal leaders and others to abide by the results of the vote in Washington state, where polls show Clinton has a wide lead over Trump.

He said he's heard from a few other national Democratic electors who are considering joining him.

"We are looking down off the cliff. As humanity we are there. We cannot go four more years with either of these idiots," he said.

The Puyallup Tribe is a major backer of Democrats and one of the state's largest contributors to the Clinton campaign, having donated more than $460,000 to the Clinton Victory Fund.

In a statement last month, the Puyallup Tribal Council distanced itself from Satiacum. While saying the tribe supported the "personal convictions" of Satiacum, the statement noted that as an elector he had pledged to cast his vote for the winner of the state's popular vote.

Satiacum "risks dishonoring himself" by not fulfilling that duty, the council's statement said.