There weren’t any surprises inside the Ohio Statehouse today as the state’s 18 electors have cast their ballots for Republican President-Elect Donald Trump. But it wasn’t a day without controversy.
When the state’s electors arrived for their noon gathering at the Statehouse, they were greeted by about 200 protestors.
They chanted and carried signs, most of them hand-made. And their message was clear – anyone other than President-Elect Donald Trump. Ann Morris of Columbus was one of them.
“We are just hoping some people will vote their conscience and not vote for Trump. We are not asking necessarily that they vote for Hillary [Clinton] but we are asking that they do not vote for Trump. We think he is going to be terrible for this country. I think people who are independent, Republican, Democratic can all agree that this person will not work with anyone and really doesn’t care about anyone so we are hoping that the electors just vote their conscience.”
Morris and many of the protestors pointed out that Democrat Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by nearly three million votes. But inside the Senate chambers, the state’s electors did vote for Trump and in a big way.
“The Electors have cast 18 votes for Donald J. Trump for President and 18 votes for Mike Pence for Vice President.”
The electors and the speakers at this 54th Electoral College spoke highly of Trump. Among them – Ohio’s Treasurer Josh Mandel, who recently announced his 2018 US Senate run with a video filled with Trump-type themes. He says Trump’s election signals a return to conservative values and an end to political correctness.
“We are going to have a restoration of people believing in what they want to believe in, saying what they want to say, calling it how it is and being comfortable to be who they are and proud to be Americans.”
The electors know this presidential race was controversial. And they say they have been barraged with messages to reject Trump. One of the electors, Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones, described it this way.
“We’ve been getting inundated with mail. When the mail truck has to back up in my driveway, it’s kind of unique. But it’s protestors and I’m used to protestors but this is a great place to be and you are seeing history in the making, right here.”
One of the electors resigned in the hours before the vote because of pressure from a lawsuit filed over the weekend. It challenged whether Rep. Christina Hagan (R-Alliance) could serve as both a state lawmaker and an elector – though there have been several instances of state lawmakers serving as electors in other presidential years. Hagan was replaced by one of Trump’s Ohio campaign staffers, Rob Scott. But Hagan was invited to make comments from the podium, and she seemed to answer her critics.
“We will not be intimidated by such tasteless acts of the opposition committed near or far this day. We will not fear those who wish to destroy our first amendment right to exercise our freedom of speech. They are not guiding this electoral college. They are not within this chamber today for their ill and divisive actions have extinguished the trust formerly given to them by the people they desire to govern.”
There is a move afoot to try to weaken the electoral college’s impact on elections. Representative David Leland, a former chair of the Ohio Democratic Party, is pushing a plan to get Ohio to join other states as part of a national compact.
“And under the compact, everybody agrees that they are going to cast their votes for the person who wins the largest number of popular votes and that’s probably the way we should have done it all along.”
Leland plans to introduce that plan again in 2017 when the new General Assembly is seated. But it would be an uphill battle for it to gain traction since Republicans will have an even stronger majority in the House and Senate. And not only will Republicans control every branch of government in Ohio, they’ll control Congress, the U.S. Senate and thanks to this vote from the electoral colleges throughout the states, Republican Donald Trump will control the White House.