Politico’s Kyle Cheney reports on Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ latest broadside against two Colorado members of the Electoral College who have sued, so far unsuccessfully, for what they see as their right to cast a “vote of conscience” in an attempt to deny Donald Trump the presidency.
Williams, who has a reputation as a mild-mannered guy as we noted last week, is really fired up:
Williams told POLITICO in a phone interview that he intends to administer an oath to electors prior to Monday’s official meeting of the Electoral College. Any electors who decide to oppose Clinton won’t just be violating the election law that requires them to support Colorado’s popular vote winner – they’ll be violating their oath as well.
“If Elector A writes down Bernie Sanders or Ted Cruz or anyone other than Hillary Clinton, they immediately cease to be an elector and they’re replaced,” he said. “The difference here is you have perjured yourself.”
“If you swear the oath and then immediately violate it,” he continued, “I think there’s a basis for a more severe criminal penalty.” [Pols emphasis]
So, we’ll start by saying that we agree with the basic premise: the vote in Electoral College for Colorado electors is by law bound to the results of the election. Because Hillary Clinton won the state of Colorado, our state’s electors are legally required to vote for her. It’s not that way in every state, but it is that way in Colorado. Because we’re talking about sworn officials carrying out essential functions of the electoral process, we don’t see this is a free speech issue.
Williams noted that he’s not a prosecutor so he couldn’t say whether electors might be charged with felony perjury – a more serious charge that carries a punishment of up to six years in prison and a $500,000 fine – or misdemeanor perjury, which carries a maximum of 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Here’s where this gets a little strange. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard Williams say he’s “not a prosecutor”–but there’s a marked difference in the Wayne Williams we’re seeing today, haranguing “faithless” electors with perjury threats, and a similar situation Williams faced earlier this year. Back in May, when revelations of petition fraud rocked Jon Keyser’s U.S. Senate campaign–later complicated when it came out that Williams’ office had known about the forged petitions for a month and taken no action–Williams deferred questions about a criminal investigation by noting that he isn’t a prosecutor.
But then Williams went further, affirmatively helping to cover for Keyser by speculating to the press about possible defenses Keyser’s campaign could offer for the forgeries. Williams stated with no evidence, even while asserting he had no power to investigate, that “typically” it’s not the campaign’s fault when they turn in forged petitions.
What’s the difference, you ask, between the Wayne Williams who gave fellow Republican Keyser the endless benefit of the doubt on the record last May, and the Wayne Williams who declared to the media his fervent desire to lock up Democrat Polly Baca?
Never mind, we think we just answered the question.