Blunt Tools

If you’ve followed my posts at all you know that my first novel, Faithless Elector is a thriller about stealing the presidency by manipulating the Electoral College—something that seemed crazily far-fetched to most of the agents I pitched it to years ago. Faithless Elector asks, “what if a group of conspirators wanted to steal a close election by getting a small number Electors to switch their votes—to vote as Faithless Electors—and overturn the result?” What would it take? How might it be done?

What doesn’t get as much attention (what middle child ever does?) is the second book in the Imogen Trager trilogy, Dark Network, which focuses on sub rosa politicking (and murder!) in the lead-up to certifying the votes, and a subsequent Contingency Election.

These thrillers, which include this year’s Emergency Powers, aren’t screeds for or against one party, but unblinking examinations of what could go wrong, about how the systems we the people rely upon to protect the process can also be the very thing that gets exploited–and what a fearless, driven group of investigators might have to do to protect the rule of law.

Today (Dec. 14) is the “the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December,” the day provided for in the Constitution, when the Electors meet for the real presidential election. No one expects there to be the kind of faithless voting that took place four years ago when ten (10!) Electors cast their ballots as Faithless Electors. But it’s the second book, Dark Network, that may prove more prophetic because it deals with the aftermath of Electoral voting: Electoral votes must be certified by Congress.

If enough votes are challenged and rejected, and neither candidate has an Electoral College majority (270 or better), the vote for president goes to the House, where each state has but one vote. The Senate votes separately for VP.

The separate Senate and House votes could even mean that the president and vice president are of different parties. But what Dark Network examines, underneath its thriller veneer, is the lengths a group of bad actors might go to in order to undermine faith in the process, to undermine the legitimacy of the vote.

Voting, and faith in its legitimacy, is the blunt tool by which we hold our government accountable. “Without law, there’s only power,” is the tagline from Dark Network. But what about when law protects the powerful?

As this Lawyers, Guns and Money blogpost makes clear, as does my earlier Murder is Everywhere post about the patchwork nature of Electoral rules, each stop on the way to certification and inauguration adds layer upon layer of uncertainty—and potential for mischief—to the process. And while the Supreme Court, hoping to avoid the kind of chaos that would indeed undermine faith in the process, ruled in July that states may make laws binding Electors to their pledge, the ruling only permits those laws. 32 states have no such law.

House members are already agitating to challenge various states’ Electoral votes when Congress meets on January 6. Will they be able to throw out enough Electoral votes to change the anticipated outcome? Probably not. A Senator would have to sign on to the challenge(s), and a majority of both houses would then have to vote in favor of the challenge (throwing out the votes!).

But overturning the result at this stage may not be the goal.

#   #   #

James McCrone

James McCrone is the author of the Imogen Trager political suspense-thrillers Faithless Elector and Dark Network about a stolen presidency, a conspiracy, and a nation on edge.
The third book, Emergency Powers, is available NOW!
All books are available on,, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon. eBooks are available in multiple formats including Apple, Kobo, Nook and Kindle.

He’s at work on a fourth thriller, set in Scotland.
A Seattle native (mostly), he now lives in South Philadelphia with his wife and three children.
James is a member of the The Mystery Writers of America, Int’l Assoc. of Crime Writers, Int’l Thriller Writers, Philadelphia Dramatists Center and the Sisters in Crime network. James has an MFA from the University of Washington in Seattle.

Supreme Court to hear #FaithlessElector arguments this month

SOCTUS-BldgThe Supreme Court of the United States will hear arguments on May 13 about the constitutionality of Faithless Elector laws established by the states, and it will deliver an opinion this summer.

At stake is whether Electors are independent actors, or are bound by the laws of their respective states.

Until very recently, most scholars seemed to agree that if the question came before the Court, the Court would rule that Electors were free to choose according to their individual consciences, which is what the Electoral College was intended for. Indeed, the schism between what has come to seem customary and how things actually work was the dramatic–and dire!–premise of my 2016 thriller, Faithless Elector. Now it seems less clear. And even when viewed through a so-called States Rights lens (which this court might tend to favor), the potential gains are actually muddled.

Those who seek to preserve the Electoral College–in which the people of the United States do not vote directly for the president or vice-president–want to preserve an institution that has twice since the turn of the century delivered Republican candidates who lost in the popular vote–Bush in 2000 and Trump in 2016. But such people should be careful what they wish for.

If the states prevail and the Court finds that Electors may be bound, the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPV) will have more teeth in it. The core of the NPV is that states can direct their Electors to vote for whomever the national vote winner is, irrespective of the result in the state. States could also argue, as the plaintiffs before the Court do, that states would also be free to direct Electors not to vote for anyone who had, say, failed to provide his tax returns. Or not for one who was divorced, or an adulterer. We’re talking about state legislatures making these rules, after all.

The high court has never weighed in before because until the 2016 election no Elector had been penalized for voting against his/her pledge. No one had “standing” to bring a claim. Now they do. The Court is taking this case ahead of the upcoming election because adjudicating it in the heat of an election (or after the fact!) would be disastrous for the nation.

As I’ve pointed out on this blog elsewhere, the Electoral College was a compromise, one that most assumed would be ironed out in the fullness of time.

I fear that the Court’s decision won’t provide clarity, but will solidify an archaic system and add to the bitter acrimony already festering.

The Faithless Elector Argument Preview, posted on the SCOTUS-Blog is informative, and not over-burdened with legalese.

#   #   #

The Imogen Trager #NoirPolitik Thrillers at a glance:

Faithless Elector – Everyone thinks the election is over, but six weeks is a long time in politics. An idealistic, young researcher stumbles onto a plot to steal the presidency, with deadly consequences.

Dark Network – Without law, there’s only power. FBI Agent Imogen Trager is alone and in grave danger from a conspiracy she failed to destroy. She’ll have to fight against time, a sinister network, and even her own colleagues to defeat it.

Emergency Powers (Oct. 1) – No battle plan survives contact with the enemy. The investigation that was FBI Agent Imogen Trager’s undoing may be the key to stopping a brutal, false flag terrorist attack meant to tighten a puppet president’s grip on power.


James McCrone is the author of the Imogen Trager political suspense-thrillers  Faithless Elector and Dark Network about a stolen presidency, a conspiracy, and a nation on edge.


The third book, Emergency Powers, is coming October 1st, and he’s at work on a fourth book called Bastard Verdict (w/t) . You can check out Emergency Powers for free on NetGalley.



Find them all through  They are also  available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Powell’s Books.


If you live in Philadelphia, you can pick up your copies at Head House Books -or- Penn Book Center or in Princeton at Cloak & Dagger Books.
For a full list of appearances and links to reviews, check out:



Recurring Nightmares

Concerns and issues surrounding the Electoral College and Faithless Electors remain firmly in the spotlight with frightening implications. We’re still just over a year away from the 2020 election, and already alarm bells are sounding. The presidency remains frighteningly open to mischief and manipulation–perhaps more so than in March of 2016 when Faithless Elector debuted.

NYTimes.FaithlessOn October 14 the NY Times reported Faithless Electors’ Could Tip the 2020 Election: Will the Supreme Court Stop Them? At the story’s center, was a petition to the Supreme Court asking for a ruling as to whether so-called Faithless Electors were independent actors or whether the state laws requiring them to vote as pledged were constitutional. The petitioners noted that in the 2016 Presidential Election, there were seven (7!) such defections. Thus far in our history, no Faithless Elector(s) has ever changed what might be regarded as the result of a presidential election. But as the petition points out:

“A swing by that same number of electors [7] would have changed the results in five of fifty-eight prior presidential elections” [emphasis mine].

Cvr page-faithless-petitionTwo weeks later, Charles Lane, writing in the Washington Post, posited “A Nightmare Scenario for 2020: A Tie that Can’t be Broken.”  (It should be noted that Lane’s “scenario” ought to have come along with a royalty check to me–his opening paragraphs describe my first two thrillers, Faithless Elector and Dark Network very closely. 🙂 )

This past Friday (Nov. 1), Brookings described the problematic electoral college math in the impeachment proceedings thus far: The States that will Decide the 2020 Election Oppose Impeaching Trump. Once again, even though majorities favor the proceedings, the opinions of staunch Republican voters in the likely swing states of AZ, FLa, MI, NC, PA and WI oppose impeachment and removal by an average of 52%. While that could change as more comes out, it is well to note that electoral math is once again not on the side of the majority., as my thrillers point out, the Electoral College is ripe for mischief. A very close election, like the 2000 Bush-Gore election (where only 5 Electoral votes–271-266–separated the two candidates) could be disastrous for the nation. And, there was a Faithless Elector in that election, too–Barbara Lett-Simmons, a DC Elector–who did not cast her vote for Gore in protest of the District’s lack of representation in Congress. If four Electors had defected to Gore over the Florida recount debacle, he’d have won.

Screen Shot 2019-11-04 at 10.38.34 AMThe recent petition, probably with the 2000 election in mind–and the Bush v. Gore Supreme Court decision halting the Florida recount specifically–notes that: “the demographics of the United States indicate that contests will become even closer, [and] there is a significant probability that such swings could force this Court to resolve the question of electoral freedom within the context of an ongoing contest.”

That is to say, if the Supreme Court does not take the case or does not issue a ruling, we could  be arguing the validity of a result in the midst of the election.

It gets worse. A more perfect nightmare would be if in 2000 only 1 or 2 had defected, leaving neither candidate with a clear 270-vote majority. As is provided in the constitution, when there is no clear majority, Congress chooses the president–with each state delegation having only 1 vote.

A set of bad actors, who wanted to sow greater distrust in the voting process and undermine the integrity of the nation and its laws couldn’t dream of a better scenario– overturning a close election for their own purposes…leaving We the People entirely out of the process, and a nation lacking “the consent of the governed.”

#   #   #

James McCrone is the author of the Imogen Trager political suspense-thrillers Faithless Elector and Dark Network , about a stolen presidency, a conspiracy, and a nation on edge.  The third book, Emergency Powers, is coming soon, and he’s at work on a fourth book called Bastard Verdict (w/t) .


Find them through  They are also available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Powell’s Books.


If you live in Philadelphia, pick up a copy at Head House Books -or- Penn Book Center or in Princeton at Cloak & Dagger Books.
For a full list of appearances and links to reviews, check out: