- The Washington Times - Monday, December 19, 2016

The Electoral College officially voted Monday to select Donald Trump as the 45th president as noisy anti-Trump protests across the country fizzled, and Democrats ended up with an even worse black eye in the results.

Mr. Trump defied predictions that he would lose “dozens” of GOP electors in a historic show of discontent. Instead, only two Republicans defected — less than the four who abandoned Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the Monday vote.

The president-elect called his 304 votes — significantly more than the 270 needed for victory — “a historic electoral landslide,” said it was bigger than anyone in the media expected and again vowed to be a unifying force in the White House.

“This election represents a movement that millions of hard working men and women all across the country stood behind and made possible,” he said in a statement. “I will work hard to unite our country and be the President of all Americans.”

His assurances, however, have done little to quell unrest among his opponents, underscoring both the fears he himself stoked during his unorthodox campaign and the efforts Democrats are already making to try to dent his legitimacy as president.

In the immediate aftermath of the Nov. 8 vote, activists demanded recounts in states where the margin of victory was close. When that failed, activists launched a campaign to pressure electors, demanding they abandon their candidate and either back Mrs. Clinton or vote for a third person, throwing the election to the House of Representatives to decide next year.

They were less than gracious in their defeat Monday.

“You just sold us out of this world,” screamed one woman protesting against the electors in Wisconsin. “We’re all going to go to war and die because of you people. You have no right.”

“Every one of you, you’re pathetic,” another Wisconsin protester shouted, as officers hustled her out of the room where the vote was held. “This is not America.”

The complaints were fed by the Obama administration, which says Russian-backed hackers attempted to sway the election against Mrs. Clinton by releasing embarrassing emails in the weeks ahead of the election.

Anti-Trump activists seized on that news, begging for the electoral vote to be delayed until all the details were made public. They hoped Russian influence would scare some electors into defecting from Mr. Trump in the vote.

“Our democracy is founded on the principle that these elections are fair elections. When that ideal is threatened, whether through intentional voter suppression or by direct interference from foreign actors … our entire nation suffers,” said Lauren Beth Gash, an elector in Illinois who voted for Mrs. Clinton.

Mr. Trump, in a Twitter post ahead of the vote, said the intense opposition to his victory has been unseemly — and hypocritical.

“If my many supporters acted and threatened people like those who lost the election are doing, they would be scorned & called terrible names!” he said.

Mrs. Clinton won the national popular vote by some 2.6 million votes but lost the Electoral College by a significant margin. Her backers were unbowed in defeat.

“We stood on the right side of history,” insisted Susan Johnston Rowland, one of Mrs. Clinton’s electors in Virginia, which the former first lady carried.

In Minnesota an elector tried to vote for Sen. Bernard Sanders, but state law prohibits defectors. He was replaced by an alternate, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and all 10 of the state’s votes went to Mrs. Clinton.

And a Clinton elector in Maine tried to cast his ballot for Mr. Sanders, but it was ruled improper, and he had to switch to Mrs. Clinton.

Four Democratic electors in Washington state did defect, with three voting for former Secretary of State Colin Powell and one voting for Faith Spotted Eagle, a Native American leader active in the recent fight against a pipeline in the Dakotas.

As for the GOP, anti-Trump electors were replaced in a couple of states, and Texas saw two defections. One person voted for former Rep. Ron Paul, a Texan, while another voted for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who was one of many Republicans Mr. Trump defeated for his party’s nomination this year.

In Colorado, mayhem ensued after a Democratic elector, Michael Baca, refused to cast his vote for Mrs. Clinton, who won the state’s popular vote, as part of what’s become known as the Hamilton Electors strategy.

Their idea was to convince 37 Republican electors to abstain or vote for someone other than Mr. Trump, which would have left him with 269 votes, one shy of the 270 electoral votes needed to make his victory official.

But a state judge in Colorado ruled last week that any elector who broke with the popular vote could be replaced.

Trump foes booed and jeered as Mr. Baca was replaced by Democrat Celeste Landry, who cast her ballot for Mrs. Clinton. Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams took the brunt of the crowd’s ire, with some calling for him to resign or be recalled. Others yelled, “Vote your conscience!” and “The whole world is watching!”

Mrs. Clinton wound up with all nine electoral votes, while Mr. Baca was referred to Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman for potential prosecution under state law.

Mr. Baca had been attempting to vote for Mr. Kasich as part of the Hamilton Electors strategy.

Even though the strategy flopped, Hamilton Electors said afterward its members were “buoyed by widespread grass-roots and bipartisan support to stop Trump.”

“We changed the public mindset in a matter of weeks from utter disinterest in the Electoral College as anything but a rubber stamp body to one where half the public wanted to get rid of it or postpone this year’s vote,” the group said in a statement.

The electoral votes will be counted by Congress early next month, and Mr. Trump will be sworn in on Jan. 20.

His election marks the second in the last five where the winner of the national popular vote did not win a majority in the Electoral College.

Americans are generally done with the Electoral College. A Marist-McClatchy poll found 52 percent of voters want the national popular vote to pick the winner, while 45 percent back the current system.

But efforts to undo the Electoral College appear doomed to failure since they would require the agreement of the smaller states that benefit from the current arrangement.

Instead, activists are hoping to do a runaround ahead of the next election, asking states to pass laws forcing their electors to vote for the popular vote winner. If enough states agreed, they could prevail, even without changing the Constitution.

“Whether it happens in four years or 40 years, a national popular vote for president is coming,” Justin Nelson, founder of One Nation One Vote, said. “Regardless of who you voted for in this election, we can all agree that the candidate with the most votes should win, and every vote should count equally.”

Valerie Richardson reported from Denver.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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