TALLAHASSEE — About 100 anti-Donald Trump demonstrators gathered in the Florida Capitol this morning in a final attempt to persuade Florida electors to break their oaths and vote against Trump for president this afternoon.
“We’re here to show solidarity for those electors who want to flip the vote, because we cannot let this man who’s unqualified, we cannot let this bigot take the White House,” Maxwell Frost, from a group called Democracy Spring, told protesters in the rotunda outside the Senate chamber where electors will meet.
Part-time Palm Beach resident Trump beat Hillary Clinton in Florida by a 49-to-47.8 percent margin to win the state’s 29 electoral votes. A slate of 29 Republican electors — who were selected by the state GOP and vetted by the Trump campaign and who took oaths pledging to vote for him — began trickling into the Capitol this morning to pick up their credentials and passes before today’s 2 p.m. vote.
Republican Party of Florida Chairman Blaise Ingoglia and Trump’s Florida campaign manager Susie Wiles — both Florida electors — said this morning they don’t expect any Florida electors to defect.
In Florida and across the U.S., Republican electors have been bombarded with letters, emails and phone calls urging them to vote against Trump to deny him the presidency. Trump won states with 306 electoral votes. If 37 electors defect and no candidate gets 270 votes, the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives would choose the president.
“I’m hoping that our representational democracy will prevent an unfit candidate from having control of the presidency,” said Bonnie McCluskey of Tallahassee, who held a “Send It To The House” sign.
Although Trump won Florida, McCluskey said, Florida electors “need to protect the United States. The Electoral College was put in place as a safety valve. And it’s needed.”
James and Mauria Roche and their son Colter, all of whom volunteered for Clinton in Polk County, wore purple scarves to the Capitol, symbolizing a blend of Republican red and Democratic blue. Mauria Roche mused about the possibility of electors choosing Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich for president and Clinton for vice president.
Michelle Nungester of Sarasota held up signs calling Trump a liar, racist, narcissist and fascist, among other things. Although Trump was called those things before the election and won Florida, Nungester said Florida electors have an obligation to go against the state’s election results to prevent “an unfit demagogue” from taking office.
Nungester said electors should “protect the American people when the American people are not able or willing to protect themselves.”
Frost said that although Florida voted for Trump, its electors should disregard the state results and consider that Clinton got 2.8 million more votes nationally than Trump.
“We’re looking at this from a national point of view. As the United States of America, more people voted for Hillary, more people voted against Trump than voted for him,” Frost said. “We’re here to say we don’t want that system any more and we’re here to tell these electors that they should vote with the United States of America, which is against Trump.”
State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, said she received “thousands and thousands” of appeals urging her to vote against Trump.
“There are a significant number of people who are showing very aggressive tendencies and were very impolite in their attempts to sway my vote but that would never happen. That part of it is unfortunate…Most of them didn’t cross the line,” Benacquisto said after picking up her elector credentials this morning.
Elector Jeremy Evans of Pensacola said most of the calls and letters and emails he received were “healthy,” but he also got a call vowing to send a “special package” to his home address and one mentioning his 2-year-old daughter by name.
“I’m not exactly sure how those phone calls were somebody expecting me to change my vote,” Evans said.