Photo by Associated Press.
Originally Published: December 19, 2016 6:26 p.m.
WASHINGTON — There were many protesters but few faithless electors as Donald Trump won the Electoral College vote Monday — ensuring he will become America's 45th president.
Arizona electors go for Trump
PHOENIX — Ignoring hundreds of protesters outside and reports of Russian hacking, the state’s 11 Republican electors cast their votes as expected Monday for Donald Trump.
State Party Chairman Robert Graham, one of those electors, said those hand-picked by the GOP had an obligation to support Trump who won the most votes in Arizona on Nov. 8.
“When someone runs for the Electoral College they understand that they’re actually running to support the popular vote for our state,’’ he said. Still, he conceded, they were under no actual legal obligation to vote that way. “There’s nothing binding them outside their conscience.”
And Graham said he was not bothered by the reports by both the FBI and CIA which concluded that Russia hacked into various emails, including of the Democratic National Committee, in a bid to sway the outcome of the election.
“The irony behind this is that good old Hillary Clinton has all these email discrepancies with Benghazi, her work with the Clinton Foundation,’’ he said. “And now they’re making a point of finding some kind of moral or ethics around this?’’
Anyway, Graham said, what Russia did is irrelevant.
“If they’re bad actors, they are what they are,’’ he said.
“And it’s just a bunch of accusations,’’ Graham continued. “And the DoJ is politicizing it a very pathetic way,’’ leaking information to the media rather than taking what they know to Congress.
“DoJ is using this as another opportunity, a last-ditch opportunity, to make hay out of what they suppose, the media suppose, as a black eye for Donald Trump,’’ he said. “They keep trying to blemish a great victory, which was a movement of the people in this country.’’
That comes as Arizona Sen. John McCain is siding with Democrats -- and against his own party leadership -- in seeking a special select committee to look into the role that Russia played in the election. Majority Leader Sam McConnell of Kentucky prefers it be handled by the existing Intelligence Committee.
Graham declined to weigh in on the issue.
“It’s not my job to weigh in on their perspectives and their opinions,’’ he said.
The Electoral College vote comes as a new statewide poll shows Arizonans nearly equally divided on the question of whether the president should be elected strictly by popular vote.
That system gives each state a set number of electoral votes based on the number of people in Congress. So Arizona, with nine representatives and two senators, gets 11.
The automated survey of 700 registered voters, conducted earlier this month by OH Predictive Insights, found 46 percent favor electing president on direct popular vote, with an identical amount wanting to keep the current system and the balance undecided.
But there was a decided, if not surprising, partisan split: Three-fourths of Democrats like the poplar vote, versus 44 percent of independents and 21 percent of Republicans.
This year, Clinton gained about 2.8 million more popular votes than Trump. And there was a similar situation in 2000 when Democrat Al Gore outpolled Republican George W. Bush but lost the electoral vote.
Secretary of State Michele Reagan, who presided over Monday’s event, said there’s a reason the Electoral College was created.
“Our Founding Fathers feared a candidate could unjustly manipulate public opinion and people wouldn’t be able to make an informed choice,’’ she said during the ceremonies.
“The thought was that by voting for a qualified group of individuals, it would be more difficult to manipulate voters,’’ she explained. saying Alexander Hamilton believed the Electoral College would “protect’’ voters.
Capitol Media Services
An effort by anti-Trump forces to persuade Republican electors to abandon the president-elect came to practically nothing and the process unfolded largely according to its traditions. Trump's polarizing victory Nov. 8 and the fact Democrat Hillary Clinton had won the national popular vote had stirred an intense lobbying effort, but to no avail.
"We did it!" Trump tweeted Monday evening. "Thank you to all of my great supporters, we just officially won the election (despite all of the distorted and inaccurate media)."
He later issued a statement saying: "With this historic step we can look forward to the bright future ahead. I will work hard to unite our country and be the President of all Americans."
Even one of Trump's fiercest Republican rivals, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, said it was time to get behind the president-elect.
"We want unity, we want love," Kasich said as Ohio's electors voted to back Trump at a statehouse ceremony. Kasich refused to endorse or even vote for Trump in the election.
With all states voting, Trump finished with 304 votes and Clinton had 227. It takes 270 Electoral College votes to win the presidency. Texas put Trump over the top, despite two Republican electors casting protest votes.
Befitting an election filled with acrimony, thousands of protesters converged on state capitols across the country Monday, urging Republican electors to abandon their party's winning candidate.
More than 200 demonstrators braved freezing temperatures at Pennsylvania's capitol, chanting, "No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA!" and "No treason, no Trump!"
In Madison, Wisconsin, protesters shouted, cried and sang "Silent Night." In Augusta, Maine, they banged on drums and held signs that said, "Don't let Putin Pick Our President," referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Despite the noise outside state Capitols, inside, the voting went pretty much as planned.
In Nashville, Tennessee, one audience member tried to read out some Scripture before the ballots were cast, but was told he could not speak. "We certainly appreciate the Scripture," State Election Coordinator Mark Goins said from the podium. "The answer is no."
With all Republican states reporting, Trump lost only the two electors in Texas. One voted for Kasich, the Ohio governor; the other voted for former Texas Rep. Ron Paul.
Clinton lost four electors in Washington state — three voted for former Secretary of State Colin Powell and one voted for Native American tribal leader Faith Spotted Eagle. She also lost an elector in Hawaii to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Clinton beat Sanders in the Democratic primaries.
Several Democratic electors in other states tried to vote for protest candidates but they either changed their votes to Clinton or were replaced.
The Electoral College has 538 members, with the number allocated to each state based on how many representatives it has in the House plus one for each senator. The District of Columbia gets three, despite the fact that the home to Congress has no vote in Congress.
Republican electors were deluged with emails, phone calls and letters urging them not to support Trump. Many of the emails are part of coordinated campaigns.
In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, elector Charlie Buckels reached out to Trump's opponents after the New York businessman got all of the state's eight votes.
"For those of you who wished it had gone another way, I thank you for being here," said Buckels, the state GOP finance chairman. "I thank you for your passion for our country."
There is no constitutional provision or federal law that requires electors to vote for the candidate who won their state — though some states require their electors to vote for the winning candidate.
Those laws, however, are rarely tested. More than 99 percent of electors through U.S. history have voted for the candidate who won their state. Of those who refused, none has ever been prosecuted, according to the National Archives.
Some Democrats have argued that the Electoral College is undemocratic because it gives more weight to less populated states. That is how Clinton, who got more than 2.8 million more votes nationwide, lost the election to Trump.
Some have also tried to dissuade Trump voters by arguing that he is unsuited to the job. Others cite the CIA's assessment that Russia engaged in computer hacking to sway the election in favor of the Republican.
"When the founders of our country created (the Electoral College) 200-plus years ago, they didn't have confidence in the average white man who had property, because that's who got to vote," said Shawn Terris, a Democratic elector from Ventura, California. "It just seems so undemocratic to me that people other than the voters get to choose who leads the country."
A joint session of Congress is scheduled for Jan. 6 to certify the results of the Electoral College vote, with Vice President Joe Biden presiding as president of the Senate. Once the result is certified, the winner — almost certainly Trump — will be sworn in on Jan. 20.