Mass. electors vote for Clinton amid protests over Trump

Antonio Caban/State House News ServiceJoe Brown, left, called the Electoral College system "troubling" and said he joined Monday's anti-Trump protest outside the Statehouse in solidarity with protesters throughout the country. 

BOSTON — Electors in Massachusetts cast all of the state’s 11 votes for Democrat Hillary Clinton on Monday, as protesters called on members of the Electoral College elsewhere to block Republican Donald Trump’s path to the White House.

Clinton and her running mate, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, won Massachusetts by more than 60 percent of the vote Nov. 8, and they carried the national popular vote by more than 2.8 million ballots.

But Trump and his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, won in 30 states, easily giving them the 270 electoral votes needed to assume office.

Trump was expected to receive 306 votes in the Electoral College, despite calls by Clinton supporters and even some Republicans for electors to “vote their conscience” and deny Trump's win.

Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton, is one of 11 Massachusetts electors who cast ballots during a ceremony in the historic House chambers.

He admitted to mixed feelings about participating in the process, given the wide margin by which Clinton won the national popular vote.

“I'm humbled and honored to have this opportunity to reaffirm our support for Clinton and the underlying values that a majority of the state voted for,” he said. “I just wish the circumstances would have been different."

Donna Smith, president of the state's Electoral College, praised Clinton and Kaine at the ceremony and warned that the nation faces myriad challenges under a Trump presidency.

The next federal election, for Congress, is two years away, she noted, "but the fight for America has already begun."

"We have to roll up our sleeves and start working to restore truth, civility and dignity to our citizens and the political process," she said.

Anti-Trump protesters

Outside the Statehouse, hundreds of protesters blasted the outcome of the election.

“This election was stolen from us,” said Jess Baines, 35, of Boston, holding a sign that read "Dump Trump."

“We don’t recognize this man as our president. He puts democracy at risk," she said.

Some said they oppose Trump’s win because they feel he is unsuited for the job, citing his positions on immigration and minorities. Others cited intelligence reports that Russia engaged in widespread computer hacking to sway the election in Trump’s favor.

Mike Jones, a Clinton supporter, said he wanted to send a message to the Electoral College.

“We’re giving the keys to the White House to a racist and a bigot?” the 28-year-old said. “That’s not what our founding fathers envisioned. We need to take stand against his presidency.”

Republicans shot back at the protests, dismissing them as sour grapes.

"The fact that left-wing activists are pushing a desperate plan to undermine our democracy because they didn't like the result on Election Day is just another example of why so many Americans voted for change last month,” said state GOP Chairwoman Kirsten Hughes.

“Voters want their government to move forward and solve the problems our country faces, and these protests run counter to that goal,” Hughes added.

About the Electoral College

Electors are typically party activists and insiders chosen by the party’s leadership.

In addition to Pacheco, the state’s other Democratic electors were Nazda Alam of Weston, MaryGail Cokkinias of Longmeadow, Cheryl Cumings of Brighton, Curtis LeMay of Lowell, Parwez Wahid of Framingham, Jason Palitsch of Shrewsbury, Donna S. Smith of Stoughton, Marie A. Turley of Jamaica Plain, Paul G. Yorkis of Medway, and Dori Dean of Holyoke.

A GOP candidate hasn’t captured a single electoral vote from deep-blue Massachusetts since Republican Ronald Reagan won the White House in 1984, according to Secretary of State William Galvin’s office.

Nationwide there are 538 electors, with states given one for each member of Congress, including the Senate. The District of Columbia has three despite the fact that it has no congressional representation.

The system was hatched at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 as a compromise between those who favored popular elections and those who believed such decisions should be made by a political elite. The system also protected the representation of rural states.

Trump’s election is only the fifth time in history that the winner of the Electoral College vote did not win a popular vote.

The first happened in 1824 when Andrew Jackson of Tennessee won more popular votes, followed by John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts, Henry Clay of Kentucky and William Crawford of Georgia, though not every state awarded electors based on popular vote at the time. Adams was eventually elected by a House vote.

Other presidents elected with a majority of the Electoral College vote but not a popular vote were Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876, Benjamin Harrison in 1888, George W. Bush in 2000, and now Trump.

While some states require electors to pledge a vote for the winning candidate, or actually bind electors' votes, there is no constitutional provision or federal law that requires them to vote for the candidate who won their state.

Time for change?

The election outcome has prompted calls from Democrats to eliminate the Electoral College, which they argue is undemocratic because it doesn't reflect the popular vote.

A poll released Monday by Politico/Morning Consult found 45 percent of Americans favor ditching the Electoral College for the popular vote in presidential elections, with 40 percent saying they want to keep it. The poll also found sharp divisions between Republicans and Democrats.

Pacheco, who served as an elector in President Bill Clinton’s 1996 re-election, said he's lost faith in the system, but doing away with it wouldn’t be easy.

For one, scrapping it would require a constitutional amendment.

A separate effort to create a multi-state compact, so far enacted in 11 states, would require electors to support the winner of the national popular vote. But that takes effect only if enough states join to comprise a majority of the Electoral College.

“It’s more difficult than just saying one person, one vote,” Pacheco said. “Mostly because many of the same states that have an advantage under the current electoral system will have to change.”

Electoral votes cast on Monday are due to be certified by Congress on Jan. 6 in a joint session, with Democratic Vice President Joe Biden presiding.

Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for The Salem News and its sister newspapers and websites. Email him at cwade@cnhi.com.

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