Updated 6 p.m.
Despite pop-up protests, floods of phone calls and a large vote recount effort, Pennsylvania’s 20 electors have officially cast their votes for Donald Trump for president.
It’s been almost two months since Trump unexpectedly won the presidential election in a stunning fashion, beating Hillary Clinton in battleground state Pennsylvania by just about 44,000 votes, or three-quarters of a percentage point.
There’s been a concerted effort on the part of those opposed to Trump to dump him. Electors, or the people selected to represent Pennsylvania in the electoral college, have been bombarded with thousands of phone calls and letters asking them to oppose Trump and deny him the presidency, sending the decision to the House of Representatives. Those calls have only intensified since the CIA announced it believes Russian officials hacked systems in the United States with the purpose of lifting Trump to the White House.
In Pennsylvania, there was also a major effort by Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein to recount the votes. Though she tried for statewide recounts in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, only Wisconsin ended up going through with it — and Trump won again.
The Electoral College isn’t easy to flip, though a handful of electors in other parts of the country threatened that they wouldn’t cast their vote for Trump, who lost the nationwide popular vote by more than 2.5 million votes.
And though there were still protests in Harrisburg this morning asking the state’s GOP electors to not vote for Trump, this afternoon, the electoral college in Pa. worked the way it was supposed to.
Who electors are and what they do
Usually, we don’t hear about presidential electors. They’re often little more than a formality — the people who cast their ballots for president based on the will of the people in the state they represent.
But this year’s different.
The state’s 20 electors (the fifth most in the country), who are GOP loyalists including the state head of the party, have been bombarded with requests to refrain from casting their vote for Trump. However, the Associated Press surveyed the electors, and they remained committed to voting for Trump.
Presidential electors in Pennsylvania are not legally required to vote for the person who won the state. In fact, the vote’s anonymous — someone could theoretically not vote for Trump and go undetected. But that would be a massive departure from what’s been practiced for decades.
The pushback from protesters and activists
Since yesterday, that have been vigils, demonstrations and protests in Harrisburg to ask electors to abstain from voting for Trump. That led to big security upgrades. According to The (Allentown) Morning Call, electors had their own plainclothes state police escorts.
One elector told the Morning Call that she’d gotten “more mail than Santa” — some 10,000 emails. Another said people were commenting on her personal Facebook page asking about her vote. And another told The Inquirer he’d gotten 5,000 emails, calls and letters a day.
“This is stupid,” the elector said. “Nobody is standing up and telling these people, ‘Enough, knock it off.’ ”
But the largest, most concerted pushback was orchestrated by Stein’s campaign that crowdfunded an effort for a recount and then navigated through Pennsylvania’s complicated process for obtaining one.
First, Stein funded a state lawsuit, claiming there was a possibility that voting machines in Pennsylvania were hacked and changed in favor of Trump. But there was no evidence of such a hack, and the lawsuit was dropped when the campaign couldn’t put up $1 million bond.
Then they filed a federal lawsuit, claiming Pennsylvanian’s constitutional rights were violated by the state’s use of certain voting systems, specifically ones that could be susceptible to hacking and don’t leave a paper trail. Their request for an analysis of Pennsylvania voting machines in federal court was denied, and her suit was dismissed.
This story has been corrected to reflect the time that’s passed since the presidential election.