Donald Trump Wins the Electoral College Vote
Texas’s slate of electors put him over the top.
Updated at 5:45 p.m. ET
A majority of the electoral college voted for Donald Trump for president on Monday, marking an anticlimactic end to a turbulent, nearly two-year-long election season, and putting a stop to weeks of Trump’s opponents lobbying and cajoling the electors to prevent the president-elect from being inaugurated next month.
The 538 electors gathered Monday in each of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., to formally vote for president. By roughly 5:30 p.m. ET, more than 270 of them—the number needed to secure the presidency—had voted for Trump. Texas’s slate of electors, two of whom voted for other candidates, put him over the top. Typically, electors meet in their respective state capitals, record their votes, and mail in certificates noting their preferences to certain federal and state officials. Their votes won’t be officially counted until January 6, during a joint session of Congress.
Democrats and other Trump detractors were hoping that in an election cycle marked by unconventionality, some electors would be willing to break conventions, too—namely, by colluding to withhold the presidency from Trump. The Associated Press reported last week that Republican electors had been relentlessly lobbied to not vote for the president-elect. Those efforts didn’t appear to be working ahead of the vote:
Whether they like Trump or not, and some plainly don't, scores of the Republicans chosen to cast votes in the state-capital meetings told AP they feel bound by history, duty, party loyalty, or the law to rubber-stamp their state's results and make him president. Appeals numbering in the tens of thousands—drowning inboxes, ringing cellphones, stuffing home and office mailboxes with actual handwritten letters—have not swayed them.
Republican electors would have been key to withholding the presidency from Trump; if 37 Republicans had voted for another candidate Monday, the election would have gone to the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, where anti-Trumpites hoped members of Congress would pick a more moderate Republican to lead. Some of the pressure on electors had come from within the college itself, including from two Democrats calling themselves the Hamilton Electors, who wanted the body to coalesce around a compromise GOP candidate.
Each state has as many electors as it does senators and representatives in Congress; California tops the list with 55. Though not all are bound by state law to vote for whichever candidate won the popular vote in their state, it’s tradition that they do so. Just as two Republican electors in Texas voted against Trump, multiple Democrats withheld their votes from Hillary Clinton. One from Maine—“with no disrespect” to Clinton—voted for Bernie Sanders, before that vote was ruled out of order, and he supported Clinton on the second ballot. Another in Minnesota was replaced after he indicated he wouldn’t support her. And four electors from Washington state backed someone else: One voted for Faith Spotted Eagle, an activist who recently protested the Dakota Access Pipeline, and three voted for former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Much of the popular frustration over the electoral college this year is rooted in Clinton’s commanding popular-vote lead, which on Monday was over 2.8 million. The dissonance between the popular and electoral vote counts—along with complaints over the outsized influence the college gives less populous states—has renewed efforts to reform or abolish the electoral college entirely. Some federal lawmakers have joined those efforts, and they could further signal their dissatisfaction with the electoral college system when the joint session of Congress meets next month, by formally objecting to specific votes.
November’s election was the second in recent memory in which a Democratic candidate won the popular vote but lost the election to a Republican; the first was 2000, with Al Gore losing to George W. Bush. In the end, Trump’s share of the electoral college vote is expected to be larger than that of Bush, but is expected to rank only 44th out of 54 winning candidates.