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Can foes block Obama second term by blocking Electoral College?

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November 27, 2012|By James Rainey
  • President Obama waves to supporters at the election night party in Chicago, to proclaim victory in the presidential election.
President Obama waves to supporters at the election night party in Chicago,… (Carolyn Kaster / Associated…)

While the work of governing goes on in Washington, some members of the permanent opposition to President Obama continue to register their disdain for not only the incumbent but for the electoral process that granted him a second term.

Their solution? Change the rules, or get out of the game.

On the latter front, protesters continue to signal their contempt for Obama with online petitions calling for their states to secede from the United States. Nearly 1 million people in all 50 states have now signed, according to McClatchy Newspapers, which totaled the signatures accumulating on a White House website.

That number could seem alarming to Obama supporters, but consider this: As of Tuesday afternoon, about 2,300 people had signed the petition “Grant peaceful secession to the state of California in order to form a new and independent sovereign state.”  That trailed the 3,900 who had signed a petition to the White House titled “Nationalize the Twinkie Industry.”

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The Constitution makes no provision for states to secede from the union. But signing a petition is one way to blow off some steam.

Another fantasy maneuver has been making the rounds among Obama denialists in recent days. Under this construct, the Democrat could still be blocked from a second term if presidential electors from the states that favored Republican Mitt Romney simply boycotted the Electoral College voting.

Judson Phillips proposed that subterfuge a week ago on the far-right website World Net Daily.  Phillips, listed as a founder of the Tea Party Nation, suggested that the Electoral College could not have a quorum if enough states boycotted. He claimed that the 12th Amendment to the Constitution required two-thirds of the states to participate.  Without that quorum, Phillips wrote, the selection of the president would be thrown into the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, which would install Romney. (Never mind Obama’s 3.5-million popular-vote advantage and 126 electoral-vote margin.)

This idea had some extremists all atwitter for a few days.  Among those intrigued by the idea was a state senator from Idaho, Sheryl Nuxoll of Cottonwood, who used Twitter to send out a link to Phillips’ story. “A ‘last chance’ to have Mitt Romney as President in January (it’s still not too late),” Nuxoll said.

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The fantasy scenario got a shot of new life Tuesday, when a couple of newspapers reported on Nuxoll’s interest in reworking the electoral math. Alas for the fanatics, if they had returned to the World Net Daily site and Phillips original story, they would see an editor's note had been appended.

“Since this column was posted,” it reads, “it has been discovered that the premise presented about the Electoral College and the Constitution is in error. According to the 12th Amendment, a two-thirds quorum is required in the House of Representatives, not the Electoral College.”

Romney electors can stamp their feet, hold their breath, or even stay away on Dec. 17, when the Electoral College is scheduled to meet in state capitols around the country. That will not prevent the 332 Obama electors from casting their ballots for the incumbent.

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James.rainey@latimes.com

Twitter: @latimesrainey

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