RI Electoral College Casts Votes For Clinton, Kaine

Dec 19, 2016

Protesters gather in front of the Rhode Island Statehouse Monday morning in advance of the electoral college vote.
Credit Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

In Rhode Island, four electors unanimously cast their votes for Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine for the presidential ticket, after they were escorted into the House Chamber to cast their ballots Monday afternoon.  

Earlier in the day, protesters demonstrated outside the Statehouse, calling for electors across the country to join forces and halt the election of Republican Donald Trump.

State Electoral College President Clay Pell said Rhode Island's electors heeded the call of the majority of voters in the Ocean State. 

“I voted for Hillary on November 8th and together with Rhode Islanders across the state, we voted overwhelmingly for Hillary," said Pell. "So for me, there was no question of voting for someone other than Hillary, because she had the will of the people.”

Pell said it’s sad Clinton will not take office, but he’s proud to be a part of the Electoral College. He said the system is imperfect, but electors must follow the rules. 

After casting votes, State Rep. Grace Diaz, one of the state's four electors, initiated a call for a bipartisan committee to investigate suspected Russian interference in the election.  Pell said this is an effort to protect the integrity of American elections in the future.

“This is not about changing the outcome," said Pell. "This is about defending the democratic will of the people. President-elect Trump is the president-elect. I believe in the peaceful transfer of power. But I also believe in making sure that he stands with the intelligence community and the American people and not with the Russian government.”

Pell said it’s not too late to investigate how Russians interfered. He said the American people have a right to know more about the government intelligence that concluded Russia swayed the elections by hacking and releasing emails of important members of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).


Protesters Brave The Cold With Message For Electoral College 

With chants of, "Democracy, yes! Donald Trump, no!" a small group of demonstrators ignored sub-freezing temperatures, and little chance of success, to make their views known outside the Rhode Island Statehouse Monday morning.

Their message for electors?

"I’m looking for anybody but Trump in the Whitehouse," said Smithfield resident Mel DuPont. "We want them to protect us from him, and vote their conscience to get him out of there."

Demonstrators Mel DuPont and Joanne Belhumeur said they felt it was important to show solidarity with protesters around the country.
Credit Elisabeth Harrison

DuPont said Trump's comments about grabbing women by the their private parts, captured on backstage videotape from a 2005 television show and released during the presidential campaign, were "a deal breaker" for her. Other protesters expressed concerns about civil rights under a Trump administration and conflicts of interest related to his business empire.

"I've never been an activist," said demonstrator Joanne Belhumeur from Pawtucket. "The last time I protested was in junior high in the 60s to protest the dress code in a sit-in. So that's how important this is to me."

Belhumeur's concerns include Trump's many business and real estate ventures, which she believes could have a negative impact on foreign policy.

Protesters stood for several hours outside the statehouse as temperatures hovered in the mid-20s.
Credit Elisabeth Harrison

"Foreign governments could hold him hostage for his business interests," she said. "This is not about party politics at all for me. This is strictly a moral issue to keep him out office if at all possible."

Many of the demonstrators said they are aware that the Electoral College is not widely expected to change the outcome of the presidential election. Still, they said they felt it was important to show solidarity with protesters in other parts of the country.

"We have to make change in America," said Gary Dantzler, a Pawtucket resident and organizer for the Black Lives Matter movement. "This is the future. We don’t want Donald Trump in office where he’s hurting us across America, so we want democracy."

RI Electors To Cast Votes For Presidential Ticket

All 538 members of the U.S. Electoral College are meeting across the country Monday to submit their votes for the next president. Rhode Island has four votes; all are pledged to the Democratic ticket, winner of the state's popular vote.

Rhode Island's electors, selected by Democratic Party leaders are former gubernatorial candidate Clay Pell, who campaigned for Clinton, Providence State Rep. Grace Diaz, and retired union labor leader and Cranston firefighter Frank Montanaro.  East Greenwich resident Susan Weiner, a family friend of Hillary Clinton, is also an elector.

Pell has called for intelligence briefings for members of the Electoral College on suspected Russian meddling in the U.S. election. Rhode Island Democratic Party Chairman Joe McNamara has also joined electors in this call.

President-elect Donald Trump has yet to acknowledge Russia’s interference in the elections. 

Rhode Island Electoral College Members State. Rep. Grace Diaz of Providence, Susan Weiner, Frank Montanaro, and former gubernatorial candidate Clay Pell taking the oath to cast their votes faithfully.
Credit Ambar Espinoza / RIPR

The December 19th Coalition, a collection of activist groups, called for protests at state capitals across the country, including Providence, to voice dissatisfaction with the 2016 election results.

Other members of the Electoral College, led by Michael Baca of Colorado and Bret Chiafalo of Washington state, called on both Republican and Democratic electors to cast their vote for a different Republican candidate to upset Donald Trump’s election.

Note: This post has been updated.