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Opinion >  Column

Eye on Boise: Lawmaker shares far-fetched idea to elect Romney

BOISE – A state senator from north-central Idaho is touting a scheme that’s been circulating on tea party blogs, calling for states that supported Mitt Romney to refuse to participate in the Electoral College in a move backers believe would change the election result.

Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, sent an article out on Twitter headed, “A ‘last chance’ to have Mitt Romney as President in January (it’s still not too late).”

Constitutional scholar David Adler, director of the Andrus Center for Public Policy at Boise State University, said the plan is not “totally constitutional,” as touted in the article, but is instead “a radical, revolutionary proposal that has no basis in federal law or the architecture of the Constitution.”

Adler dubbed it “really a strange and bizarre fantasy.”

Nuxoll said, “Well, I guess that’s one lawyer.”

Nuxoll said she received the article by email and decided to share it on Twitter. “I post for people to see and think about things and reflect about things,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s realistic.”

The article, by Judson Phillips, a former Shelby County, Tenn., assistant district attorney and founder of Tea Party Nation, posits that if 17 of the 24 states that Romney carried refuse to participate in the Electoral College, the college would have no quorum, throwing the presidential pick to the GOP-controlled House of Representatives.

The problem with that, Adler said, is that it’s based on a misreading of the 12th Amendment, which notes when no candidate receives a majority in the Electoral College, the decision moves to the House, where each state would have one vote and a quorum of two-thirds of the states would be required. “The two-thirds reference in the 12th Amendment is a reference not to the Electoral College but rather to the establishment of a quorum in the House of Representatives,” he said.

To win in the Electoral College, a presidential candidate needs only to get at least 270 electoral votes, Adler said. No quorum is required.

“The author touted by Sen. Nuxoll is confusing the Electoral College with the House of Representatives,” Adler said.

“It is possible that a president might be elected without reports from some states. George Washington was elected to his first term in 1789 despite the fact that some states were not able to file a report of their electoral votes, owing to a major snowstorm.”

He added, “President Obama’s comfortable margin of victory would preserve his election even if some states were unable to report their election results.”

Nuxoll said she’s not actively working to get Idaho to skip the Electoral College vote. “It would have to be a coordinated effort among states,” she said. “So it couldn’t be just Idaho.”

She said, “I think it is very, very sad that we elected our current president, because he is definitely not following (the) Constitution. He is depriving us of our freedoms by all the agencies, and so … what I’m thinking is the states are going to have to stand up for our individual rights and for our collective rights.”

Nuxoll won a second Senate term on Nov. 6 with 64 percent of the vote in Idaho’s new legislative District 7, defeating independent Jon Cantamessa.

Adler said, “As for the bizarre premise, perhaps worthy of a screenplay or novel that promoted conspiracy theories, that Idaho or a group of states might try to wrest victory by refusing to report electoral results, any such effort would violate federal law.”

He added, “Congress would have every right to count the votes from the recalcitrant states. Clearly, such a project would ignore the aims and values of the framers, represent a gross usurpation of power and, in its efforts to disenfranchise voters, depict an utter contempt for the right of Idahoans to participate in the selection of the president.”

USAF radium waste finds home in Idaho

Radioactive waste that the U.S. Air Force couldn’t get permission to dispose of at a Bakersfield, Calif., dump has been brought to Idaho, to the Department of Ecology’s hazardous waste site at Grand View, according to California Watch. The nonprofit investigative reporting site, which was founded by the Center for Investigative Reporting, reports that the Air Force told California regulators the waste was “naturally occurring,” but they balked – it comes from radium dust left over from glow-in-the-dark aircraft instruments.

Ecology’s permit allows it to accept “naturally occurring” waste without notifying state regulators; when Idaho DEQ officials learned of the dumping from California Watch, they inspected the site and determined it didn’t matter because the radium concentrations fell below threshold levels in Idaho’s regulations.

The issue set off a firestorm of criticism in California, where health officials and environmental activists accused the Air Force of bending the truth to get its way. “Illuminated instrument dials do not naturally occur,” Daniel Hirsch, a lecturer on nuclear policy at the University of California Santa Cruz who leads the environmental group Committee to Bridge the Gap, told California Watch. “I can’t dig into the soil and discover naturally occurring radium instrument dials.”

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