COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — All 18 of Ohio’s Electoral College members helped Republican Donald Trump secure the presidency Monday, rejecting letters, phone calls, emails and marches by protesters seeking to change their minds.
The unanimous vote occurred after Republican Gov. John Kasich, a Trump detractor, was compelled to appear in the Ohio Statehouse’s Senate chambers to play an official role in the replacement of an elector. Kasich had declined to endorse or vote for Trump after dropping his own presidential bid. He chose to deliver a message of unity when addressing electors.
Kasich picked up on a line in the event’s opening prayer in urging the body to support President-elect Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who won the vote count in the state Nov. 8.
“It’s not (that) we’re asking God to be on our side. It’s our responsibility to be on his,” he said. “That means that we are together, that means that we want connection, we want neighbors, we want unity, we want love. And we recognize the very strength of our country is encapsulated in those virtues, and values of the two gentlemen I talked about today.”
Republican state Treasurer Josh Mandel, who supported U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida over both Kasich and Trump in the Republican primary, delivered the day’s keynote address. He praised Trump.
The vote came as hundreds of demonstrators protested outside. They marched around the long city block in temperatures below freezing, carrying signs including “Trump = Danger.”
They joined others across the country asking electors to vote against Trump and to throw their support to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Clinton won the popular vote nationally but secured just 43 percent of the vote in Ohio compared to Trump’s 51 percent.
Charles Merbitz, of Cleveland, said protesters sought to highlight electors’ constitutional responsibilities.
“The constitution says the electors are the last ditch against a demagogue taking power, and that’s what we have,” Merbitz said. “Mr. Trump has a marvelous facility for making people believe in him, but, as his bankruptcies attest, he then walks away and leaves them holding the bag. This is what he’s going to do to his voters.”
Republican state Rep. Christina Hagan, forced to resign as an elector during the weekend by a Democrat’s legal challenge to her serving as both a state lawmaker and elector, delivered impassioned remarks from the dais after stepping aside.
“We will not hear those who wish to destroy our First Amendment right to exercise our freedom of speech,” she said, suggesting opponents sought to intimidate and threaten electors headed into Monday’s votes. One elector, Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones, tweeted a selfie later Monday with an outdoor fire he’d built from all his protest mail.
First-time elector Jim Dicke said some voters always are left unhappy in presidential years.
“But the way this country comes together and engages in an orderly transition of power and puts our trust in the process just really touches me,” he said. “It’s very special. I think this is a country like no other on Earth.”