WASHINGTON -- The sharp divisions left by last month’s presidential election have cast more attention than usual on the Electoral College. The Associated Press attempted to talk to all 538 electors to get an idea of the pressure they are under, what they think about their Constitutional duty and what they make of longshot efforts to derail Donald Trump’s ascension to the White House when they meet Monday.
Here’s a sampling:
Republican Rex Teter, 59, a music teacher and preacher in Pasadena, Texas, received about 35,000 emails and 200 letters urging him not to support Trump. It took him several hours to delete them the day after Thanksgiving. A Marco Rubio supporter in the primaries, he is solidly for Trump.
“Some have been very personal letters. Some threatening. One was very funny. They view President-elect Trump as a threat so it’s personal for them, and I can empathize. But I’m not changing my vote as an elector.”
“When I decided to run for elector, that’s when I decided to vote for Trump. I could not be an elector and not vote for Trump. ... No matter of arm-twisting or any amount of money would get me to change. I was also bound by a higher law, because I promised but also because I made a higher pledge before God.”
Democrat Raymond Cordova, 77, of Garden Grove, California, thinks the Electoral College is an anachronism, but electors have an obligation to carry on the tradition of ratifying their state’s popular vote. In the primaries, he voted for Bernie Sanders.
“During the time of (James) Madison I think they were right on target with it. We have the means, with sophisticated communication, all these things today, we don’t need the Electoral College. But it will never change, it will always be there.”
“I honestly believe if Bernie Sanders had been the nominee, we’d have had a whole different story. But I’m not going to cry over spilled milk, I’m going to pick up my marbles and start all over again.”
Kirk Shook, 32, is an Athens, Georgia, teacher and secretary of the state GOP, who says he’s sent more than 47,800 emails about his duty as an elector to his spam folder.
“Even if I could have been swayed a little bit, this has caused me to be even firmer in my resolve if just to aggravate them. It’s been a complete thorn in my side. They’re from all over the country.”
“On the whole, the American people knew who they voted for. Nothing going to come out about Donald Trump, I think, that would sway the people who voted for him to change their vote or change electors’ decision.”
Democrat David Mulinix, 66, of Kaneohe, Hawaii, is exasperated with the Democratic National Committee, the Electoral College system and the fact he can do little except cast his electoral vote for Hillary Clinton according to the rules.
“Now we have Donald Trump because the DNC manipulated the system to put in the worst candidate possible that the people of the United States did not want. So now we’re stuck with Trump. So I’m not sure what else to do about that. I wish there’d be some way to make a statement saying you guys really messed up ... and I just don’t know exactly how to do that.”
“If there was some way to change the election, then I’d be on the phone hot and heavy calling people.”
“We need to get rid of this dumb thing. I really am not happy about being an elector or that this thing exists. This is really terrible. We’re supposed to have a democracy... Right now, if all the electors got together and held a conference, and said you know what, we’re going to vote for like Donald Duck, they can just do that.”
Alberto Gutier, 77, director of the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety and the state GOP’s sergeant-at-arms, says he’s been swamped with emails, several dozen calls to his personal cellphone “and a stack of letters a foot high” about his service as a Republican elector. These are largely pleas for him to back someone other than Trump.
“Forty-seven thousand, five hundred emails, that’s ridiculous, OK? And hundreds and hundreds of letters. Do you have any idea, for those stamps, how many people could have been fed for the holidays?”
Sam Shapiro, 89, of Winslow, Maine, was treasurer of the state Democratic Party for 13 years and treasurer of the state as well. He says the country should emulate Maine and Nebraska by splitting their electoral votes, moving away from a winner-take-all system. But he says the people have spoken, and he will cast his electoral vote for Clinton and not be part of any effort to deny Trump the presidency.
“Trump has won. I firmly support our president-elect. All of this turmoil of trying to get people to switch their votes. First of all it won’t happen. Second of all, it puts us in a bad light.”
“I served in the military and took an oath to uphold the Constitution. Trump is going to be the president, and I’ll support him, even if means being in opposition to Democrats who’re trying to make a change.”
John Harper, 73, is a former Rowlett, Texas, mayor, and a Republican elector who weighed the consequences of casting his electoral vote for someone other than his state’s presidential election winner, Donald Trump.
“I struggled with that one. I want to be always morally straight, kind of a Boy Scout, you know? I’m a retired military officer. Taking an oath means a lot. When you take an oath you live up for it. I made a promise. Lacking some strong, strong evidence, I think everyone is obligated to follow through what they promise.”
Democrat Stephanie A. Miner, 46, mayor of Syracuse, New York, is taking a hard look at the system in light of the fact that Clinton won about 2.6 million more votes nationally than Trump.
“While I have supported the Electoral College because of its unique design and historic precedence, the fact more than 2 million people have voted for Hillary Clinton over her opponent, yet he is the one who will become president, does not ring right with me or many other Americans. I am now considering our national options for what would make our elections truly fairer and more representative.”
Kelly Arnold, 38, of Wichita, is the Kansas GOP chairman. He’s counted more than 48,000 emails since mid-November. Of the ones he’s glanced at, most urged him to switch to Clinton and the rest wanted him to back a Republican other than Trump. “Of course, I have no time to read them,” Arnold said.
He thinks the Electoral College prevents a few major cities from dominating national politics, which would “ruin an election for the majority of the United States.”
“The rest of the country would be ignored. You never heard once, about anybody leading up to the election ... having a problem with the Electoral College until, oh, about 1:40 in the morning on Election Night. If the results were the other way, the left would not have a problem with the Electoral College.”
Roxanne Allen, 73, a retired radio executive in Albuquerque, New Mexico, backed Sanders in the primaries but put both Bernie and Hillary stickers on her car. She’ll cast her electoral vote for Clinton, who won the state. But she thinks electors should feel free to vote in ways that are at odds with the results in their state - even though New Mexico makes it a felony for electors to cast ballots for anyone other than the candidate of the party that selected them for the Electoral College.
“I think that this is an instance where the founders of the Constitution had a real good idea about guarding against a very unwise choice on the part of the people.”
“Given the system that we have now, I think the electors should exercise individual discretion and vote for the better candidate.”
Joe Negron, 55, is Florida’s state Senate president and a GOP elector. He’s unmoved by the lobbying to abandon Trump.
“Donald Trump won Florida fair and square. He’s entitled to the 29 electoral votes. Everything else sounds like sour grapes to me.... Our job is to implement the will of the people.”