Along with the three electors looking at alternatives, Nevada GOP elector Ken Searles said he may vote for Paul as a protest, so long as his vote wouldn’t change the outcome of the election. Another elector, Kathleen Miller in Alaska, said she is planning to vote for Romney but left open the possibility of a Paul vote if the outcome of the election was certain and Republican leaders continued what she called ‘‘shenanigans.’’
About half the states, including Nevada, have laws requiring electors to follow the popular vote. Nevada’s statute carries no punishment, and it’s unclear how it would be enforced. Election officials said they may turn to the courts to enforce the law if an elector strayed.
Tensions between the Republican Party and Paul supporters have been escalating for much of the year. At the Republican National Convention last month, Paul supporters booed as the party adopted new rules to make it more difficult for similar insurgent campaigns to gain traction in the future.
Paul has not endorsed Romney. His did not respond to requests for comment on the possible defection of GOP electors.
The Romney campaign sidestepped questions about the electors, with political director Rich Beeson saying Republicans ‘‘are united to defeat President Obama to get our economy back on track and Americans working again.’’
Often chosen during the convention process, electors are designated by each party to cast votes if their presidential candidate wins the state. A presidential candidate needs 270 of the 538 electoral votes to win.
The last time the House determined the presidential outcome was in 1825, when it selected John Quincy Adams after none of the four candidates won a majority of the electoral votes.
There have been a handful of faithless electors in recent years. In 2004, one Minnesota elector voted for John Edwards for president instead of his top-of-the-ticket running mate John Kerry. Many observers assumed that was simply a mistake. The Minnesota vote was done secretly, and no one ever claimed responsibility.
A District of Columbia elector abstained in 2000 to protest the lack of congressional representation for the district.
The last time multiple electors defected was in 1896, when William Jennings Bryan was the presidential candidate of both the Democratic Party and the People’s Party, with both parties choosing different vice presidential picks. Twenty-seven electors in that race chose the People’s Party ticket, even though it didn’t win the popular vote.
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