Florida’s 29 electoral votes go to Trump

Presidential electors state Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, and Tallahassee lobbyist Brian Ballard sign certificates of vote after the state's 29 members of the electoral college cast their votes for Donald Trump.
Presidential electors state Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, and Tallahassee lobbyist Brian Ballard sign certificates of vote after the state's 29 members of the electoral college cast their votes for Donald Trump. Florida Senate

In a ceremony that was historic but devoid of suspense, all 29 Florida presidential electors voted for Donald J. Trump on Monday and did their part to make him the next president of the United States.

The ceremony ended weeks of efforts by disappointed and angry voters across the country who wrote letters, fired off emails, filed lawsuits and finally staged protests in an effort to prevent Trump from becoming the nation’s 45th president on Jan. 20.

“I know it was a long hard haul,” said Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, as he thanked fellow electors for standing by Trump despite the many “harassing” messages. “We were part of history.”

About 200 demonstrators assembled in the rotunda outside as electors gathered in the state Capitol’s newly remodeled Senate chamber in a ceremony under the direction of Gov. Rick Scott’s chief elections official, Secretary of State Ken Detzner.

Florida’s event unfolded like those held in the 49 other state capitals across the country. Despite vociferous protests about a candidate who lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, Trump seemed poised Monday afternoon to win 306 of the 538 electoral votes under the state-by-state distribution of electors used to choose presidents since 1789.

A couple hundred demonstrators gathered at the Florida Capitol to encourage the state’s 29 electors to oppose Donald Trump for president in the Electoral College vote on Monday, Dec. 19, 2016.

By 3:21 p.m., Arizona and Missouri electors pushed Trump to 245 votes and Hillary Clinton to 120.

Florida’s awarding of electors to Trump was celebrated — inside the Senate chamber. Seated in alphabetical order, each of the 29 electors cast separate paper ballots for Trump and for Vice President-elect Mike Pence. They applauded loudly when Detzner announced the anticlimactic results.

Electors included Attorney General Pam Bondi, who’s widely expected to resign her post sometime in 2017 for a new job in Trump’s White House; Susie Wiles, a Jacksonville-area political consultant who managed Trump’s once-unthinkable Florida victory; and Sharon Day of Fort Lauderdale, the outgoing co-chair of the Republican National Committee who said she will join the new administration.

Florida is one of 29 states in which presidential electors are legally bound to vote for the candidate of their party, but that didn’t stop about 200 demonstrators from peacefully protesting the certification of Trump’s Florida victory.

A small demonstration by Tallahassee standards, the protesters gathered first in a cold morning rain outside the Capitol before moving indoors, where they chanted “Love trumps hate” and held handmade signs that read “unfit to serve” and “stop Trump.”

MORE: “Anti-Trump protesters urge Florida electors to ‘vote for sanity’

Beverly Lynn left Sarasota at 2:30 a.m. for the five-hour-plus drive to the Capitol for the protest. She said that to remain silent made her “part of the problem,” but that she knew that protests were unlikely to change any electors’ minds.

“Miracles happen,” Lynn said. “I hope there are some really brave men and women in there.”

Maxwell Frost of Orlando helped organize the protest as part of the group Democracy Spring, one of several groups that held coordinated protests at other state capitals.

“We’re here today so we can show solidarity for those electors that want to vote against Trump and flip the vote,” Frost said. “Not everyone is going to change their mind, that’s true, but we’re here for those who do want to change their mind.

Kathryn Plumb, 14, and her mother, Leigh Touchton, drove from Valdosta, Georgia. to Tallahassee, a much shorter drive than to their home-state capital of Atlanta, to urge a no vote on Trump.

“He goes back on his word and everything he says is untrustworthy,” Plumb said. “And the way he treats women is terrifying. As a kid, I don’t want to turn 18 and have him rule my teenage years or just be in charge of my life in general, because as a woman I can’t trust him to make decisions for me.”

As the electors voted, protesters chanted, “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA.” After Trump was declared the winner, they booed and shouted, “Not my president!” before dispersing a few minutes later.

For one of Trump’s earliest Florida supporters, Monday brought a sense of pride and satisfaction after being ostracized for choosing Trump over both of Florida’s favorite-son candidates for president, former Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, was one of two electors from Pinellas County, which proved crucial to Trump’s Florida victory.

Ahern, who claims to be the first elected official in Florida to endorse Trump more than a year ago, never attended a Trump rally and has not met Trump.

He said his email inbox was “all jammed up” with messages from people urging him not to ratify the election result, but he said he didn’t read any of them.

“It’s a little sad that progressives, liberals, Democrats that are pushing this can’t accept the facts,” Ahern said. “He’s the elected president.”

Trump’s Florida victory played a key role in his victory on Nov. 8, but it was overshadowed by his surprising victories in three rust belt states: Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton by nearly 113,000 votes out of about 9.4 million ballots cast, the most in any election in Florida history. Trump carried 58 of the state’s 67 counties.

One elector was unable to attend the ceremonies. Ade Aderibigbe withdrew in October and was replaced by Adrien “Bo” Rivard, a Panama City lawyer, long-time supporter of Gov. Rick Scott and a Scott appointee to the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

All security and logistics were under Detzner’s control. News photographers, who usually have access to Senate floor proceedings, were kept out of the chamber, and electors were escorted in from a side entrance so as to not cross paths with protesters.

Scott, who endorsed Trump last March and raised money for a pro-Trump super PAC, did not attend the event.

Times/Herald staff writer Michael Auslen contributed to this report.

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