The 'real' presidential election: Electoral College to vote on Monday

In a typical election year, the mid-December meeting of the electoral college interests only political junkies and civics teachers.

Not this time.

As the electors prepare to vote Monday, many say they have been besieged by phone calls and e-mails. One already resigned. Another said he won't vote as his state did. And electors in three states went to court seeking authority to vote as they please.

Hillary Clinton's victory in the popular — but not the electoral — vote and uncertainty about Donald Trump have generated unusual interest in an event that is usually a political footnote.

More from NBC News: Clinton Campaign Wants Intel Briefings for Electoral College Members

Under the Constitution and federal law, the real presidential election takes place this year on Dec. 19, when presidential electors meet in the 50 state capitols and Washington, DC.

The electors are hardly household names. As Arizonans went to the polls Nov. 8, 49 percent of them may have thought they were voting for Donald Trump and Mike Pence, but they actually elected Bruce Ash, Walter Begay, and 10 other people.

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Nine-year-old Belle Shefrin holds a doll of U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton while listening to Clinton speak at a campaign rally in Akron, Ohio, U.S., October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump waves to supporters outside the front door of Trump Tower where he lives in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump listens as Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton answers a question from the audience during their presidential town hall debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Rick Wilking /File Photo FROM THE FILES PACKAGE "THE CANDIDATES" - SEARCH CANDIDATES FILES FOR ALL 90 IMAGES
Summer Zervos, a former contestant on the TV show The Apprentice, is embraced by lawyer Gloria Allred (L) while speaking about allegations of sexual misconduct against Donald Trump during a news conference in Los Angeles, California, U.S. October 14, 2016. REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Eve Rydberg (L) and Megan Lee pose for a portrait with their sign as they take part in a protest against Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump outside the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. October 18, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Lott TEMPLATE OUT.
U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's campaign plane (rear) passes U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's campaign plane as it lands in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. October 18, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Ivanka Trump, daughter of Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump, awaits the the start of the third and final debate between her father and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton finish their third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton (R) reacts to a joke by Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump (L) at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation dinner in New York, U.S. October 20, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A man wears a mask depicting Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton while holding a doll depicting Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in Phoenix, Arizona October 20, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Arduengo TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton arrives at Burke Lakefront airport in Cleveland, Ohio U.S., October 21, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) says a few words of support for Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump (L) at a campaign rally in Naples, Florida, U.S. October 23, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump hugs a U.S. flag as he comes onstage to rally with supporters in Tampa, Florida, U.S. October 24, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
A man wears a t-shirt of Hillary Clinton behind bars as he eats a sandwich at a rally with Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump in St. Augustine, Florida, U.S. October 24, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton waves as she arrives to a campaign event accompanied by U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) at Alumni Hall Courtyard, Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire U.S., October 24, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump meets with law enforcement and first responders at the St. Johns County Sheriff's Department in St. Augustine, Florida, U.S. October 24, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton reacts as she attends a campaign rally at Alumni Hall Courtyard, Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire U.S., October 24, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Donald Trump's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is seen after it was vandalized in Los Angeles, California U.S., October 26, 2016. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton reacts as she boards her campaign plane at Miami international airport in Miami, Florida, U.S., October 26, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. first lady Michelle Obama embraces U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as they arrive at a campaign rally in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, U.S., October 27, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks about the FBI inquiry into her emails during a campaign rally in Daytona Beach, Florida, U.S. October 29, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton talks to staff members, including aide Huma Abedin (L), onboard her campaign plane in White Plains, New York, U.S. October 28, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo FROM THE FILES PACKAGE "THE CANDIDATES" - SEARCH CANDIDATES FILES FOR ALL 90 IMAGES
U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton holds a Halloween mask while joking with her staff on her campaign plane in Erlanger, Kentucky, U.S. October 31, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton acknowledges the crowd at a campaign rally in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, U.S. November 1, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Children watch their mother vote during the U.S. general election in Greenville, North Carolina, U.S. on November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
People visit the grave of women's suffrage leader Susan B. Anthony on U.S. election day at Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, New York November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Adam Fenster
Grace Bell Hardison, a 100-year-old woman recently mentioned by President Barack Obama after attempts were made to purge her from the voter registration list and hence deny her right to vote, receives an "I Voted Today" sticker from election official Elaine Hudnell after she cast her ballot in the U.S. general election from a car in Belhaven, North Carolina, U.S. on November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his wife Melania Trump vote at PS 59 in New York, New York, U.S. November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
A supporter celebrates as returns come in for Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump during an election night rally in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar TEMPLATE OUT
Supporters of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton watch and wait at her election night rally in New York, U.S., November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Lyn Thrasher (front L) and her daughter Marley Thrasher react to a stream of news showing a surge by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in the national contest at Republican Governor Pat McCrory's election-night party in Raleigh, North Carolina, U.S. November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
Supporters of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton watch and wait at her election night rally in New York, U.S., November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta addresses supporters at the election night rally in New York, New York, November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Supporters of U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton react at her election night rally in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A Trump supporter celebrates as election returns come in at Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump's election night rally in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Trump supporters embrace as they watch election returns come in at Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump's election night rally in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar
U.S. President elect Donald Trump supporters kiss at election night rally in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump rally in front of the White House in Washington, U.S. November 9, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump is accompanied by members of his family as he arrives to address supporters at his election night rally in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 9, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 09: Republican president-elect Donald Trump delivers his acceptance speech as his son Barron Trump and wife Melania Trump looks on during his election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of November 9, 2016 in New York City. Donald Trump defeated Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to become the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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The votes cast by Ash and 537 others chosen as presidential electors will be counted Jan. 6, 2017, during a joint session of Congress, and only then will the winner be officially declared. It takes 270 votes to win because the 12th Amendment requires a candidate to get a majority.

Members of a group calling itself The Electors Trust, including Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig, say they've been contacted by dozens of electors seeking legal advice.

Many are asking, must they vote as their states did?

More from NBC News: Why We Have the Electoral College

A total of 29 states have laws that bind the electors, requiring them to cast their votes for whichever candidate won that state's popular vote. But the laws are weak, providing only nominal penalties.

The Supreme Court ruled in 1952 that states do not violate the Constitution when they require electors to pledge that they will abide by the popular vote. But the justices have never said whether it is constitutional to enforce those pledges.

Courts in Colorado and Washington state have rejected pleas from electors to be released from requirements to vote as their states did, although the electors in Colorado appealed the lower court ruling, according to The Associated Press. The state Supreme Court will have until Monday at noon, when electors cast their ballots, to decide.

In California, a federal judge scheduled a hearing for Friday morning on a similar request from an elector, Vinzenz Koller, who said he cannot vote for Hillary Clinton.

Elsewhere, Christopher Suprun, a Texas paramedic, said he will not vote for the candidate who won his state's election. "Donald Trump lacks the foreign policy experience and demeanor needed to be commander in chief," he wrote in a New York Times op-ed.

Another Republican elector from Texas, Art Sisneros, resigned in late November. A vote for Trump "would bring dishonor to God," he said.

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NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 8: Men walk backstage at the Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's Election Night event at New York Hilton Midtown in New York City on Nov. 8, 2016. (Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 08: A screen is positioned in front of buildings ahead of Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's election night event outside the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center November 8, 2016 in New York City. Clinton is running against Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump to be the 45th President of the United States. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)
Workers iron a US flag as they prepare the US map shaped stage for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's election night event at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York on November 8, 2016. Eager voters crowded into polling stations to choose a new US president Tuesday after a wild and bitter contest between the billionaire populist Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the Democrat seeking to become the first woman to win the White House. / AFP / Jewel SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK CITY - NOVEMBER 8: Trump campaign paraphernalia is seen behind a velvet rope at Donald Trump's Election Night event at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York City on Nov. 8, 2016. (Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
A Trump supporter waits for the Trump rally to begin at the Hilton Hotel during the U.S. presidential election in New York City, New York, U.S. November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 08: Preperations take place before Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds his election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown on November 8, 2016 in New York City. Americans today will choose between Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton as they go to the polls to vote for the next president of the United States. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
People watch elections returns during election night at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York on November 8, 2016. US Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton will hold her election night event at the convention center. / AFP / DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
A 'Make America Great Again' sign is displayed ahead of an election night party for 2016 Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump at the Hilton Midtown hotel in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. Fifty-one percent of voters nationally were bothered a lot by Trump's treatment of women, while Democrat Hillary Clinton's use of private e-mail while secretary of state was troubling to 44 percent, according to preliminary exit polling as voting neared a close in some states. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 08: A supporter of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump attends the election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown on November 8, 2016 in New York City. Americans today will choose between Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton as they go to the polls to vote for the next president of the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK CITY - NOVEMBER 8: A Donald Trump supporter takes a picture of the press pen at Republican presidential nominee Donald Trumps election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York City on Nov. 8, 2016. (Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
A supporter holds a sign at the election night rally for U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, New York, U.S., on November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
'Hispanics For Trump' signs sit on a table ahead an election night party for 2016 Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump at the Hilton Midtown hotel in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. Fifty-one percent of voters nationally were bothered a lot by Trump's treatment of women, while Democrat Hillary Clinton's use of private e-mail while secretary of state was troubling to 44 percent, according to preliminary exit polling as voting neared a close in some states. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 08: A supporter of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump cheers during his election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown on November 8, 2016 in New York City. Americans today will choose between Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton as they go to the polls to vote for the next president of the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 08: Eva Pearson of Long Island, NY holds her hands to her face as she watches voting results at Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's election night event at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center November 8, 2016 in New York City. Clinton is running against Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump to be the 45th President of the United States. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 08: Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is projected on a screen on election night at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center November 8, 2016 in New York City. Clinton is running against Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump to be the 45th President of the United States. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Woman hold ups up boxing gloves while cheering during an election night party for 2016 Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton at the Javits Center in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. Fifty-one percent of voters nationally were bothered a lot by Republican Donald Trump's treatment of women, while Clinton's use of private e-mail while secretary of state was troubling to 44 percent, according to preliminary exit polling as voting neared a close in some states. Photographer: John Taggart/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Two women chat ahead of Republican Donald Trump's election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York on November 8, 2016. Millions of Americans turned out Tuesday to decide whether to send Democrat Hillary Clinton to the White House as their first woman president or to put their trust in Republican maverick populist Donald Trump. / AFP / Timothy A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
Guests watch a screen proclaiming Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as winning the state of Illinois at the election night rally at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York, U.S., November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Supporters of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump watch news reports as results come in during election night at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York on November 8, 2016. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were running neck and neck Tuesday in early results as polling stations closed in the eastern United States, with the world waiting anxiously to see who will win the historic White House clash. A deeply divided electorate of about 200 million Americans were asked to make a momentous choice between electing the nation's first woman president, or handing the reins of power to a billionaire populist who has upended US politics with his improbable outsider campaign. / AFP / Timothy A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
A man reacts to returns at Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's election night rally the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York, U.S., November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Marvin DeLeon (L) of Washington County, NY, cries as he stands in the overflow crowd for Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's election night rally at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York, U.S. November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Kauzlarich
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 08: Supporters of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump watch early results during the election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown on November 8, 2016 in New York City. Americans today will choose between Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton as they go to the polls to vote for the next president of the United States. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Supporters of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump watch news reports as results come in during election night at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York on November 8, 2016. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were running neck and neck Tuesday in early results as polling stations closed in the eastern United States, with the world waiting anxiously to see who will win the historic White House clash. A deeply divided electorate of about 200 million Americans were asked to make a momentous choice between electing the nation's first woman president, or handing the reins of power to a billionaire populist who has upended US politics with his improbable outsider campaign. / AFP / Timothy A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
Supporters of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump watch results unfold on a TV screen during election night at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York on November 8, 2016. / AFP / Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Supporters of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump react to unfolding results during election night at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York on November 8, 2016. / AFP / Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Supporters of US Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton watch elections results during election night at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York on November 8, 2016. / AFP / DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
Supporters of democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton react to early poll results during election night at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York on November 8, 2016. / AFP / Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
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Eighteen actors and other artists, including Martin Sheen and Debra Messing, urged Republican electors in a video that went viral to "go down in the books as an American hero" and vote for anyone other than Trump.

In a letter to James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, 68 presidential electors from 17 states asked for a briefing on why the U.S. believes Russia was behind cyberattacks intended to influence the election.

However the intelligence community said it will not discuss the Russian hacks until a review ordered by President Obama is completed in January.

More from NBC News: U.S. Officials: Putin Personally Involved in U.S. Election Hack

While the electors are generating an usual amount of attention, it is unlikely to have much effect. Republican officials say party lawyers have been in contact with the 306 Republican electors and believe only a few may vote for someone other than Donald Trump.

A survey by the AP reached a similar result. After interviewing 330 of the 538 electors, the AP found "widespread Democratic aggravation with the electoral process but little expectation that the hustle of anti-Trump maneuvering can derail him."

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