Electoral College officially elects Donald Trump president-elect
By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS
It is official Donald Trump is the president- elect. On Monday, Dec. 19, 2016, the 538 members of the Electoral College met and voted, finally putting an end to the tumultuous roller coaster that was the 2016 presidential election. By late afternoon Trump had reached the 270 votes necessary to assume the presidency. This year’s vote had a historic element it saw the largest amount of rogue faithless electors in modern presidential election history.
After reaching the milestone number of votes, Trump issued a statement calling his election win “a historic electoral landslide victory in our nation’s democracy.” Trump lost the popular vote to opponent Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by over 2.8 million mostly coming from the state of California. Trump had the worst popular vote of a winner than any president since the divisive 1876 election when Republican Rutherford B. Hayes won against Democrat Samuel B. Tilden after an Electoral Commission decided the election after neither candidate reached the Electoral vote majority. Tilden won more electors in the election and the popular vote, but the compromise of 1877 that ended Reconstruction put Hayes in the White House. Trump’s Electoral College victory was also only the 46th “largest” out of 58 votes winning only 56.9% of the electoral vote.
Continuing the president-elect expressed, “I thank the American people for their overwhelming vote to elect me as their next President of the United States. The official votes cast by the Electoral College exceeded the 270 required to secure the presidency by a very large margin, far greater than ever anticipated by the media. This election represents a movement that millions of hard working men and women all across the country stood behind and made possible. With this historic step, we can look forward to the bright future ahead. I will work hard to unite our country and be the President of all Americans. Together, we will make America great again.”
Vice-President Mike Pence was the first to comment of his running-mates victory. Pence tweeted “Congratulations to @RealDonaldTrump; officially elected President of the United States today by the Electoral College!” Afterward, he wrote, “I’m honored & humbled to be officially elected today as the next Vice President of the United States of America by the Electoral College.”
Clinton’s husband former President Bill Clinton served as an elector from New York State, which Clinton won. The former president tweeted, “As an elector from my home state of New York, I’ve never been more proud to cast a vote than my vote today for @HillaryClinton.”
A campaign and movement by liberals to convince Republicans to change their votes from Trump did not succeed. Still, there were seven faithless electors the largest number in modern presidential election history. Since 1872, there has never been more than one faithless elector. In 1872 Democratic nominee Horace Greeley died after the election but before the Electoral College vote with 63 out the 66 electoral votes he garnered the electors refused to vote for a deceased candidate with 43 dividing their votes among non-candidates primarily to Greeley’s running mate B. Gratz Brown. Three Georgia electoral votes were cast for Greeley, but Congress considered them invalid, while 17 abstained.
There would have been more faithless electors this time around, but the states that do not permit electors to change their votes and they ultimately replaced the rogue electors. One elector in each of the three states Maine, Minnesota and Colorado attempted to vote against Clinton; state election officials replaced them with alternate electors.
The campaign against Trump was motivated by Russian hacks that interfered in the election hoping to have Trump win as opposed to Clinton according to the CIA and FBI. The electors also failed to gain the intelligence briefing on Russia’s interference as they had hoped. Protests also erupted in small pockets, all over the country before the vote. Despite it all, Trump only saw two faithless electors, in Texas one elector voted for 2016 GOP candidate Ohio Gov. John Kasich and another backed former Texas Rep. Ron Paul, repeat GOP presidential candidate who last ran in 2012.
Ironically, most of the faithless electors tried or did change their votes from Clinton. Clinton lost five electoral votes, four from Washington State, and one from Hawaii. Three of the Washington electors voted for former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and one voted for “Native American tribal leader Faith Spotted Eagle.” In Hawaii, the faithless elector voted for 2016 Democratic presidential candidate and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, whose popularity is outlasting his movement during the campaign.
In the end, Trump garnered 304 electoral votes, while Clinton amassed 227. In contrast, after the Nov. 8 election, Trump had 306 electoral votes to Clinton’s 232. Congress has to count the Electoral College votes officially when the 115th Congress goes into session on Jan. 6, 2017 where current Vice President Joe Biden will preside.
For more on Presidential election history see Presidential Campaigns & Elections Reference
Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. Ms Goodman is an expert in presidential campaigns and election history and she has been covering American elections as a journalist since 2004.