AUSTIN, Texas – It’s just a great term: “Faithless elector.” And it gets even greater when applied to a person of faith.
The weirdness of that is not lost on welding supply salesman Art Sisneros of Dayton, a man whose Christianity drives his politics and may drive him to become Texas’ first-ever faithless elector, the term given to an Electoral College member who goes rogue.
Sisneros’ potential path to Texas political history began at the Texas GOP Convention in May when he was elected to the Electoral College from his East Texas congressional district. Those electors meet at the Capitol on Dec. 19 to cast their 38 votes for Donald Trump.
Or not. Nothing requires Texas electors to cast their ballots for the winner of the popular vote in the state. It’s just tradition and, in some folks’ minds, the right thing to do.
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Sisneros didn’t vote for Trump in November and might not vote for him in December. As of now, Sisneros is undecided between voting for somebody else, resigning from the electoral college or backing Trump. If Sisneros doesn’t show up on Dec. 19, the other electors can pick a replacement.
“Acting on faith might require me to be faithless,” he told me. “It’s just full of irony.”
Sisneros, 40, cast a write-in presidential ballot for Tom Hoefling of Iowa. Since Election Day, Sisneros has been watching to see if Trump did anything post-election to change his view of him. Not yet.
“The issue for me is not what I think about him personally. It’s do I think he’s qualified and I haven’t seen anything to make me believe he is more qualified now than he was on Nov. 8,” Sisneros told me.
His indecision has brought him national media attention as well as lots of phone calls and emails from folks nudging him in one direction or another. The nation has had only eight faithless electors since 1900.
To go faithless, Sisneros would have to violate the affidavit (actually a mystery affidavit, more on that in a minute) that says something about casting his electoral vote for the candidate that won the state’s popular vote. Sisneros, who says he’s “grateful for the platform to be able to proclaim what I believe are my principles,” detailed his opposition to Trump on a pre-Election Day posting he called “Biblical Voting in the Age of Trump.”
“The most important aspect that I have noticed is that Christians, who have traditionally voted Republican, have been forced to deal with an identity crisis. Can they vote for a man like Donald Trump who barely pretends to hold to the true faith?” he wrote, branding Trump as someone who “has said and done things that are too depraved to be repeated here.”
He quickly added “but so has Hillary Clinton.” And he turned to the Bible for guidance. God, he said, offers “clear commands for who is qualified and expects me to be obedient with my calling as a voter.”
“Therefore,” Sisneros concluded, “I cannot in good conscience vote for Donald Trump for president. The lingering question that remains is what does that mean for my role as a Republican presidential elector.”
For now, he’s undecided. He signed an affidavit, but we’re not allowed to know what it says. In 2012, the affidavit, still posted on the Texas GOP website, said “I hereby pledge to vote for the Republican Party’s nominee for president and vice president … “
I asked if the 2016 version is the same as the 2012 version. Texas GOP communications director Michael Joyce told me it’s been “modified.”
“And you can’t tell me how?” I asked. Nope, he said, citing “policy.”
Sisneros and his wife, Anne Kaddarusman, seem to be handling the pressure in different ways.
“I will not be on Facebook till December 19 so that I can get a clear perspective and be able to pray for people slandering my family in local politics,” she posted last week.
“Turns out mad Trump supporters are just as bad as mad Hillary supporters,” she wrote. “What they need is to fear God and put their hope in God rather than men.”
In a recent Facebook post, Sisneros, cool under pressure, ruminated on what he’s gotten himself into:
“'Run for presidential elector,' they said. ‘It will be fun,' they said. Apparently they weren’t aware there would be a push to contact all the electors with 100s of messages. But I confess. It has been fun.”
He had more fun in a subsequent post about his decision.
“I realize many people may be upset and even judge me for the decision I am about to make,” he wrote. “I’m going to break a longtime tradition, almost a written law, in our nation. I have been pushed to the limit, and I don’t care anymore.
So this is it? A man of faith is going faithless? No, not exactly.
“I am going to listen to Christmas music before Thanksgiving and there isn’t anything you can do to stop me,” he wrote.
“Calm down folks,” he wrote, “life is too short for this madness.”
Sisneros told me he'll decide by week’s end. He’s leaning toward resigning or reluctantly voting for Trump “with a loud statement that I don’t think he’s qualified but the people definitely do.”
The latter would be faithful to the people, though faithless to this person’s own beliefs.
The writer is a columnist for the Austin American-Statesman.