Amid protests and intense media coverage, Texas members of the Electoral College mostly stuck to the script Monday, casting the votes that gave Donald Trump a majority and officially elected him president.
Gathered in the state House chamber as a small group of protesters shouted, “Save our democracy,” from outside the Capitol, the Texas electors cast 36 votes for Donald Trump, one for former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Surfside, and one for Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
The Electoral College, typically a footnote in the process of choosing a president, received unusual attention this year as opponents of Trump on both sides of the aisle grappled with his unexpected victory. Members from Texas played a central role in the uncertainty over whether electors would decline en masse to vote in accordance with their states’ election results.
In the end, only a handful of electors pledged to Trump or Democrat Hillary Clinton broke with their states’ voters.
Texas elector Bill Greene voted for Paul, and the Kasich vote came from Christopher Suprun, who made national headlines in the run-up to Monday’s vote after announcing he would be a so-called faithless elector in an opinion article in The New York Times.
After Monday’s vote, Suprun said the effort to get electors to join him in voting against Trump was an “uphill battle” but he doesn’t regret it.
“I consider Mr. Trump still to be a demagogue. He continues to divide us based on whether or not you’re male or female, and if you’re a female, are you a 4 or a 10; where you worship; the color of your skin, ” said Suprun, who supported U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in the primaries but now objects to the Texas senator over his September endorsement of Trump.
Another Texan, Art Sisneros of Dayton, also opposed Trump but resigned rather than vote for him or break a pledge he made at the Republican Party of Texas convention to vote for the candidate who wins the popular vote of the state.
Elector Mary Lou Erben of New Braunfels said she also voted for Cruz in the primary but likes Trump and believes electors should follow the wishes of their states’ voters.
Trump won by 9 percentage points in Texas.
“I agreed to vote for our nominee,” Erben said after the vote. “I started out with Cruz, but I support both.”
For vice president, 37 Texans chose Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, and Suprun chose Austin native Carly Fiorina, whose presidential candidacy never gained traction. In the waning days of his campaign, Cruz announced Fiorina would be his running mate if he secured the nomination.
Trump lost the national popular vote by about 2.9 million votes but won a majority of enough states to give him a 306-232 advantage in the Electoral College, if all of those states’ electors had voted unanimously for the winner of the state’s popular vote.
Twenty-nine states have laws requiring their electors to do so. The others, including Texas, do not. There is debate over whether laws that bind electors would survive legal challenges because the Constitution does not require members of the Electoral College to vote a certain way.
Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday said he will support a bill that would bind Texas electors to their states’ election result. “I look forward to signing it and ending this circus,” Abbott wrote on Twitter.
Texas’ 38 electors were chosen at the state GOP convention in July. They were greeted outside the Capitol on Monday by several hundred demonstrators chanting, “Dump Trump,” and before the proceedings began they were met by Abbott; Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick; and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.
Daniel Brezenoff, the creator of a national online petition calling on the electors to pick Clinton that gained 4.9 million signatures, came to the Capitol on Monday morning to deliver the names of 265,000 Texans who had signed.
Four of the electors who were appointed at the Texas GOP convention were absent Monday, including Sisneros. The other three discovered they were ineligible because they either have a federal job or hold an elected office, said Alicia Pierce, spokeswoman for the secretary of state’s office. Their vacancies were filled on the floor by a vote of the other electors.