Texas had a big say in this year’s presidential election.
On Monday, 36 of the 38 Electoral College voters in the Texas House chamber cast their vote for Republican Donald Trump, quashing any last-minute hope for Democrat Hillary Clinton.
As officials announced that 36 of the state’s votes went to Trump — while one went to Ron Paul and one to Ohio Gov. John Kasich — many in the standing-room-only chamber began applauding and cheering.
“With that, that puts Donald Trump over the top,” said Candace Noble, who chaired the meeting.
Cheering continued, with many on their feet to give Trump a standing ovation.
Just moments before, as electors voted by secret ballot, the chant of protesters outside — “save our democracy” — could be heard inside the chamber.
After the vote was announced, many watching the ceremony from the gallery got up to leave. One woman was escorted out after an outburst, and Texas Department of Public Safety troopers were asked to remove anyone creating a ruckus.
It was a fitting end to an unusual election year.
Normally quick and quiet, this year’s Electoral College ceremony in Texas stretched to nearly three hours and drew a large media presence.
The final tally also showed that Vice President-elect Mike Pence received 37 votes and former GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina picked up one.
As unusual as this year’s election and Electoral College process was, electors said it was still a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“It’s actually very moving,” said Alex Kim, a 43-year-old Bedford attorney and Electoral College voter. “I’m casting a vote for liberty.”
Democrats were quick to condemn the results.
“The Electoral College has failed American democracy,” Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement. “An unfit, unworthy man will assume the presidency.”
Ending the drama
Monday’s vote capped weeks of drama that included threats against members of the Electoral College and declarations by at least two Texas electors that they couldn’t support Trump.
Since Election Day, electors across the country have been in the hot seat, swamped with requests and threats alike from those asking them to not support Trump for president.
Lawsuits were filed and delays were sought, with calls for electors to vote for anyone but Trump. The goal was sending the presidential vote to the U.S. House of Representatives, which might pick a more moderate president.
The Texas vote took longer than expected, because the college first had to replace four electors who were absent or declared ineligible.
And it came on the heels of protests outside the Capitol, where more than 100 people gathered to wave signs, chant “Dump Trump” and ask electors to choose any other candidate for president than Trump.
“This is not about red or blue,” said Lisa Canorro, a Houston woman who drove in for the protest and carried a sign that read “Dump Trump, Defend Democracy.” “This is about what’s right for the country.”
Work at hand
Before the Electoral College ceremony began at 2 p.m., electors from around the state — one from each congressional district and two selected statewide — had lunch together and spoke with GOP leaders such as U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, who thanked them for their service.
“This is an important part of our constitutional process,” Cornyn told reporters before the vote. “Their role is to cast their ballot as voters decided on Nov. 8.
“It’s not a do-over.”
Once the ceremony began, after prayers and pledges, Texas Secretary of State Carlos Cascos welcomed the volunteer voters to the Capitol.
“Your willingness to serve as electors makes democracy possible,” he told electors. “Thank you for your dedication to this state. … Thank you for your participation.”
He then announced that four electors weren’t present, including Shelli D. Surles, the elector for Tarrant County’s 12th congressional district who was declared ineligible, and Art Sisneros, a Dayton elector who resigned rather than vote for Trump, who he said isn’t “biblically qualified” to serve in the White House.
Four new electors were chosen: Debra Coffey to represent the 12th congressional district, along with Janis Holt, Sherry Clark and Benona Love.
Eventually, electors began casting private paper ballots, the final votes needed to once and for all put the 2016 presidential election in the rear view mirror.
Many eyes turned to Chris Suprun, an elector and Dallas paramedic.
Supran drew national attention recently for an op-ed piece he wrote for The New York Times stating that even though he signed a pledge to support the candidate who received the most votes in Texas, he couldn’t cast his Electoral College vote for Trump.
He said he believes Trump isn’t qualified to be president. But his own résumé has drawn questions from many since WFAA reported that he has a questionable career history and apparently wasn’t a first responder on 9-11 as he has claimed.
On Monday, he announced in an op-ed piece in The Hill that he was voting for Kasich.
“I’m gravely concerned that Russian President Vladimir Putin helped Trump win the Republican primary,” Suprun wrote. “In light of the mounting evidence of foreign influence undermining our election, delegates to the Electoral College should have been briefed by the CIA.”
After Monday’s vote, however, Suprun said he congratulates Trump, The Associated Press reported.
With all the talk about faithless electors, House Bill 543 has been filed to require a presidential elector in Texas to vote for the candidate who received the most votes in the general election or face a fine of up to $5,000.
“This charade is over,” Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted. “A bill is already filed to make these commitments binding. I look forward to signing it and ending this circus.”
The Electoral College, which has long drawn criticism from those who believe it’s an antiquated system, dates to the late 1700s as the name given to a group of citizens chosen to formally cast the final vote for president and vice president.
The Founding Fathers created the system as a way to create a middle ground between letting Congress and qualified voters nationwide elect the president.
They wanted to give every state a proportionate voice in the process, which is why the college is made up of 538 people and a simple majority — 270 votes — determines the country’s president every four years.
Now the ballots will be sent to Vice President Joe Biden, who will read them to both houses of Congress in early January.
Once Biden reads the results to Congress, the results are official and final.
The last time the Electoral College fell under such scrutiny was in 2000, when George W. Bush won 271-266, (one voter abstained) even though Democrat nominee Al Gore won the nation’s popular vote.