TALLAHASSEE — Florida’s presidential electors are scheduled to meet here at 2 p.m. today and officially deliver the state’s 29 prized electoral votes to President-elect Donald Trump.
Normally an historical footnote, today’s Electoral College votes in state capitals across the U.S. have drawn heightened attention after Trump foes mounted an aggressive campaign to urge Republican electors to ignore the outcomes in states that Trump won and cast their ballots for someone else.
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Part-time Palm Beach resident Trump carried states with 306 electoral votes — exceeding the 270 votes needed to win the presidency. But if 37 electors from Republican states defy centuries of precedent and vote against Trump, he’d fall short of the 270 needed. In that case, the election would be thrown to the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives.
Liberal celebrities have joined the effort to urge Republican electors to vote for someone other than Trump. They insist the campaign isn’t trying to elect celeb fave Hillary Clinton, but to elevate some other candidate who they say would be more qualified than Trump.
But not all Trump critics are on board.
David Axelrod, a CNN commentator who was chief political strategist for Barack Obama, told Twitter followers Sunday that despite his “deep concerns” about Trump, electors should follow the will of their states.
Not doing so, Axelrod tweeted, would “rip country apart.”
Florida’s 29 electors were selected by the Republican Party of Florida in consultation with the Trump campaign. They will all vote for Trump, state GOP Chairman Blaise Ingoglia and other party leaders predicted Sunday.
“I know most of them (the Florida electors) and they’re all solidly in Trump’s corner. They’re all Trump supporters, party loyalists,” said Palm Beach County GOP Chairman Michael Barnett, who is one of the state’s electors and said he hasn’t been swayed by a “never-ending barrage of emails” urging him to flip.
Trump carried Florida with 49 percent of the vote to 47.8 percent for Clinton. His victory means a slate of Republican electors will be in Tallahassee for today’s vote in the Senate chamber of the state Capitol. (Democrats had their own slate of 29 partisans in place if Clinton had won the state.)
State law requires that each elector take an oath promising to vote for the nominee of the party he or she is nominated to represent. Florida statutes do not, however, specify a penalty for an elector who breaks his or her oath. Some legal experts have questioned whether laws penalizing “faithless electors” are constitutional and a group headed by Harvard law Prof. (and onetime Democratic presidential candidate) Lawrence Lessig has offered legal defense to any elector who breaks his or her pledge.
Florida Republican National Committeeman Peter Feaman, an attorney from Boynton Beach who is one of Florida’s electors, said he has received about 5,000 communications — either letters, emails or phone messages — from people urging him to not vote for Trump.
Many of the appeals note that Clinton got about 2.8 million more votes nationwide than Trump.
“The letters say ‘Follow the will of the majority of the people.’ My response is, ‘I am.’ The majority of Floridians cast their vote for Trump,” Feaman said Sunday.
So far one Republican elector — Chris Suprun of Texas — has gone public with plans to vote against Trump.