Electors gathered in state capitals across the country Monday to formalize the results of the presidential election, a typically routine process that has become high drama amid a fervent – and likely doomed – push by anti-Donald Trump forces to deny him the victory he claimed on Nov. 8.
Several delegations already have cast their votes.
With wins in Arkansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia, Trump now has won 44 electoral votes of the 270 he needs to formally win the presidency. Democrat Hillary Clinton has won Vermont’s three electoral votes.
Republican electors have been under immense pressure, though, with some even facing threats, in the run-up to Monday’s Electoral College vote. Protests were getting underway at state capitals in one last push to get the Trump voters to change their minds.
Despite the efforts, which in recent days even included public appeals by anti-Trump celebrities, a scarce few Republican electors are expected to consider voting for anyone else. Only one Republican elector – Texas’ Chris Suprun – publicly stated he would vote for an alternative candidate. Two others promised to resign and let electors who would back Trump take their place.
Reince Priebus, White House chief of staff in the incoming Trump administration, voiced confidence about the proceedings on “Fox News Sunday.”
“We expect everything to fall in line,” Priebus said.
In most presidential election years, the Electoral College vote would essentially be a post-election formality. But the intensity of the anti-Trump opposition, combined with the fact Clinton won the popular vote with roughly 2.6 million more votes, fueled the last-ditch efforts to upend Trump’s win in the Electoral College.
Trump needs 270 electoral votes Monday. His state victories put him in line to get 306 of the 538.
From here, 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 — likely Trump — will be sworn in on Jan. 20.
Republican electors say they have been deluged with emails, phone calls and letters urging them not to support Trump. Many of the emails are part of coordinated campaigns.
“The letters are actually quite sad,” said Lee Green, a Republican elector from North Carolina. “They are generally freaked out. They honestly believe the propaganda. They believe our nation is being taken over by a dark and malevolent force.”
Wirt A. Yerger Jr., a Republican elector in Mississippi, said, “I have gotten several thousand emails asking me not to vote for Trump. I threw them all away.”
Arizona elector Donald Graham told Fox News on Saturday that the 11 electors have received hundreds of thousands of emails telling them not to vote for Trump and that he’s received information that some of the other 10 have been followed or have received a death threat.
“It’s out of hand when you have such … a small group of people that is pushing so hard against millions if not hundreds of millions of people who still appreciate this whole system,” said Graham, chairman of the Arizona Republican Party. “The Electoral College is part of the Constitution.”
If nothing else, the furor over Monday’s proceedings has served to re-acquaint Americans with a process that few pay attention to every four years.
The Electoral College was devised at the Constitutional Convention in 1787. It was a compromise between those who wanted popular elections for president and those who wanted no public input.
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.
To be elected president, the winner must get at least half plus one — or 270 electoral votes. Most states give all their electoral votes to whichever candidate wins that state’s popular vote. Maine and Nebraska award them by congressional district.