Despite Protests, Maine's Electoral College Votes As Expected

Dec 19, 2016

Vanquished Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was awarded three of Maine’s electoral votes and President-elect Donald Trump received one following a vote by the Electoral College at the State House today.

Similar votes took place across the country, drawing protests and media attention to what has typically been a ceremonial event.

Maine Republicans had hoped to celebrate Trump’s win. The president-elect made history in November by splitting Maine’s four electoral votes for the first time since 1828.

But first Republicans had to escort GOP chairman Rick Bennett, one of Maine’s electors, past a crowd of more than 100 protesters gathered outside the State House.

Similar protests took place all over the country, a last-ditch effort to deny Trump the presidency. The hope among Trump opponents was that 37 or more Republican electors would not vote for Trump and become what’s called faithless electors.

There have only been 157 faithless electors in history, according to Maine Archivist David Cheever, and he says there haven’t been any in Maine.

Bennett made it clear weeks ago that he had no intention of voting for anyone other than Trump. The prospect of a faithless elector was instead raised by a Democratic elector.

David Bright, one of two at-large electors, announced earlier in the day that he planned to vote for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, not Clinton. Bright of Dixmont quickly made national headlines.

He says he wasn’t trying to disrespect Clinton, and was trying to send a message to Sanders voters to stay active in the Democratic Party.

“So I thought if I could send a message to those folks, ‘We need you. The Democratic Party needs you, America needs you,’” Bright said before the election on Monday.

Bright’s vote would have taken away one of the three votes Clinton had earned by winning the statewide vote. But as the protests dissipated in the cold outside the capitol, so too did the specter of Bright breaking Maine’s law against faithless electors and making history.

Bright did cast his ballot for Sanders, but his ballot was ruled out of order by Betty Johnson, the president of the Electoral College. Johnson ordered a re-vote. On the second vote, Bright voted for Clinton.

Sanders actually beat Clinton in Democratic caucuses held here in March. But during a speech explaining his vote, Bright said Clinton and the Democrats had failed to energize Sanders supporters.

“Many of them lost hope as well as lost interest. Many felt the Democratic party had not listened to them, did not care about them and did not respect them. Their sense of loss in July became part of our party’s loss in November,” he said.

State Rep. Diane Denk, another Democratic elector, says her vote in Monday’s Electoral College left her conflicted. But she says she was proud to participate in an election of great magnitude.

“On the other hand the doubt that I feel going forward is tremendous,” she says.

On the Republican side, Bennett struck a more optimistic tone, saying Trump’s victory was a blow to economic globalization and unchecked immigration. He also cited Trump’s appeal in rural Maine, a region hammered by the loss of paper mills and manufacturing jobs.

The president-elect, Bennett says, spoke directly to voters there. It wasn’t his vote for Trump, he says — it was a ballot for 2nd District voters.

“Today, on behalf of the forgotten people of Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, with hope in my heart, I humbly cast their vote for Donald J. Trump for president of the United States of America,” he says.

Trump will receive more than 300 electoral votes after all the votes are tallied by the Electoral College — more than the 270 he needs to win the presidency.