Trump cruises to Electoral College victory despite protests

Elector Nazda Alam, center, announces her vote for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as fellow electors Paul Yorkis, left, and Marc Pachecho look on at the Statehouse in Boston, Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. The 11 members of the Electoral College from Massachusetts have officially cast their votes for Hillary Clinton. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

WASHINGTON (AP) — There were many protesters but few faithless electors as Donald Trump won the Electoral College vote Monday — ensuring that the billionaire will become America’s 45th president.

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).”

No surprises in Virginia or North Carolina. Texas put President-elect Trump over the 270 electoral vote threshold, despite two Republican electors casting protest votes. With that, the American people (referring to Trump’s reality television show, ‘The Apprentice’) have officially told Donald J. Trump, “You’re hired.”

Dwayne Block of Oconomowoc, Wis., marches with a sign outside of the State capitol hours before the Electoral College votes in Madison, Wis., Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. (Michael P. King/Wisconsin State Journal via AP)
Dwayne Block of Oconomowoc, Wis., marches with a sign outside of the State capitol hours before the Electoral College votes in Madison, Wis., Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. (Michael P. King/Wisconsin State Journal via AP)

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.

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.”

President-elect Donald Trump smiles as he arrives to speak at an election night rally, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
President-elect Donald Trump smiles as he arrives to speak at an election night rally, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

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.

Disappointed Virginia democrats supporting Clinton-Kaine expressed concern in the outcome of the presidential election.

“Having this opportunity to join you, and adding our names to this historic document, will show in time that we stood on the right side of history,” said elector Susan Johnston Rowland, who led the Electoral College process in the state Senate chamber in Richmond.

They went through the process of voting 13 electoral votes for Clinton for president.

Clinton-Kaine elector Terry Frye told electors for Virginia they vote, “for a woman who devoted her entire adult life to the issues of gender equality, racial equality, religious equality and electoral equality and whose great work remains unfinished.”

After voting unanimously for Clinton, they voted for Sen. Tim Kaine. In voting for him, Norfolk resident Vivian Page said she votes “for the former mayor,  the former lieutenant governor, the former governor of Virginia, and the U.S. Senator from Virginia, Tim Kaine.”

Then, like with Clinton, the Virginia electors stood and in unison, read together the vote for Kaine.

“13 votes have been cast for the honorable Tim Kaine from the Commonwealth of Virginia for Vice-President of the of the United States. No other person received a vote.”

Local electoral delegate urges all to ‘vote their conscience’

Down south in North Carolina, the electors were more cheerful than the ones in Virginia.

“It is my distinct honor to nominate Mike Pence for Vice-President of America,” said Trump-Pence elector Lee Green.

North Carolina elector Donald Webb said, “Mr. President, about 18 months ago, a unique individual began an incredible journey to receive the nomination of his party, and ultimately, the election by the people of the United States to be president. We vote for Donald J. Trump to be President of these United States, and to make America great again.”

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 Atlanta, Gov. Nathan Deal empathized with GOP electors.

“I, too, regret that you have been the subject of harassment by those who perhaps are not as dedicated to the proposition of what this body is supposed to do as they are agitated by the fact that the people didn’t do what they wanted them to do,” Deal told the state’s 16 electors, who all voted for Trump.

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.

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Associated Press writers Julie Carr Smyth in Columbus, Ohio, Marc Levy in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Scott Bauer in Madison, Wisconsin, Erik Schelzig and Jonathan Mattise in Nashville, Tennessee, Kathleen Floody and Alex Sanz in Atlanta, Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Marina Villeneuve reported from Augusta, Maine, and Juliet A. Williams in Sacramento, California, contributed to this report.

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