- Associated Press - Friday, December 16, 2016

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) - Three West Virginia representatives to the electoral college are clear and unequivocal that they will be voting for Donald Trump to be the next U.S. president regardless of emails, letters and calls urging them not to.

The state’s five electoral college representatives were all chosen earlier this year by West Virginia’s Republican Party. They got the nod after their party’s candidate won a majority of the state’s popular vote.

Trump, the Republican, received 489,371 votes in November, 68.6 percent of the statewide total.

Democrat Hillary Clinton got 188,794 votes in West Virginia, or 26.5 percent. The remaining 5 percent were split among three minor-party candidates.

One of the state’s five electors is Senate President Bill Cole, who lost his bid for governor to Democrat Jim Justice. An owner of car dealerships, he feels a particular affinity for Trump, who won his vote in the primary and general election, and who has not wavered.

“I see him as a businessman. I’m a businessman. And it’s OK to do things differently. I know that’s going to rankle some in Washington but gee whiz, it’s time to do things differently,” Cole said. “And I’m excited. I think America’s getting ready for unprecedented growth and economic opportunity to bring a free-market capitalistic private-sector approach to Washington I think will be wonderful with the Republicans in control of both houses.”

The state’s other delegates to the Board of Elections are Mac Warner, an attorney and GOP candidate elected West Virginia secretary of state; Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, re-elected last month to a second four-year term; Ron Foster, president of a building-supply company in Scott Depot; and Ann Urling, a Charleston banker who lost the race for state treasurer. Neither Foster nor Urling replied to Associated Press requests to discuss their role as electors.

Morrisey and Warner said they voted for Trump in the primary and general elections and will do the same Monday.

“There’s been a tremendous outreach by people, perhaps on the other side, from across America … texts, phone calls, letters. There’s been a deluge of effort to try to get me to vote otherwise,” said Warner, a West Point graduate and former military JAG officer. “But they’ve been unpersuasive in their argument.”

He said some of Trump’s public statements gave him pause, but said he believes the New York developer loves America and has a vision for where he wants to take it. “The overreach of the government, federal regulations, there’s so much that needs to be turned back to the states,” he said.

Morrisey said he thinks it’s his job as an elector to support the will of West Virginia’s voters, who overwhelmingly chose Trump.

West Virginia law, unlike some states, doesn’t require its electors to follow the popular vote. Four years ago, the state’s five electors all voted for presidential loser Mitt Romney, who won the popular vote in West Virginia with 62 percent over President Obama’s 35 percent in his re-election nationally.

Warner said electors should represent both the will of voters and the candidate they believe is best, though the party made clear it wanted electors who would follow the voters. “Any time you reflect a democracy position you have to balance those two things, which are your personal feelings vs. representing the will of the people. I am doing that now, and now I have both of those come together in the same point in this case,” he said.

All three who were interviewed support keeping the current electoral college system, established 250 years ago, where less populous states like West Virginia have proportionately more influence than more densely populated states.

“This is the system that’s been set up by the Founders protecting the unique voices from across the country,” Morrisey said. “And it ensures all the campaigning won’t simply occur in populated areas.”

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