Donald Trump clinched the presidency Monday as members of the electoral college cast ballots declaring him the victor, a perfunctory conclusion to the most stunning presidential contest in modern history.
Trump became the winner Monday afternoon after electors from Texas cast ballots and put him over the 270 electoral votes needed to win. Results will be officially announced Jan. 6 in a special joint session of Congress.
While Democrat Hillary Clinton amassed a nearly 3 million-vote lead in the popular vote, Trump won the state-by-state electoral map, making him president-elect. That political dichotomy sparked special scrutiny and intense lobbying of electors by Trump’s opponents in recent weeks, including mass protests. It also drew outsize attention to the usually overlooked, constitutionally obligated gatherings of 538 electors in 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The mostly symbolic calls for an electoral college rejection of Trump grew after revelations of a CIA assessment that Russian hacking could have boosted his campaign, which in the view of many Trump critics raised doubts about his legitimacy.
Trump has dismissed the intelligence community’s analysis of Russia’s role in the election and has boasted, including on Monday, of a “historic” electoral landslide. But his 305-to-232 win over Clinton ranks just 46th out of 58 electoral college margins.
“This election represents a movement that millions of hard working men and women all across the country stood behind and made possible,” Trump said in a statement. “With this historic step we can look forward to the bright future ahead.”
His detractors called on electors to buck the president-elect in favor of Clinton — or Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, or another Republican such as Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
Ultimately, Kasich earned one vote from an elector in Texas. So did former congressman Ron Paul (R-Tex.). Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) received one vote in Hawaii. In Washington state, three electors cast votes for former secretary of state Colin Powell, while another voted for Faith Spotted Eagle, a member of the Sioux tribe from South Dakota who opposes the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Pence earned the requisite electoral votes to serve as vice president, but in Washington state, Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) also earned some votes.
Across the country, critics of the president-elect braved cold temperatures and rallied outside state capitol buildings in hopes that electors might act as an emergency brake on Trump.
In Pennsylvania, which voted for a Republican president for the first time since 1988, a few hundred shell-shocked Democrats protested in Harrisburg while all 20 electors backed Trump. In Utah, protesters booed and shouted “Shame on you” as the state’s six electors cast votes for Trump in a capitol building conference room in Salt Lake City.
In Florida, a crucial swing state where Trump defeated Clinton by about a percentage point, Trump won all 29 electoral votes. He also earned all 16 votes in Michigan, another state that flipped to Republicans for the first time since 1988.
On the streets of Washington, D.C., two dozen protesters assembled outside Trump’s hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, singing songs such as “We Shall Overcome.” Some held signs, including one that read, “Resist Putin’s Puppet.” The District’s three electors later gathered at city hall, just a block from Trump’s hotel.
In Albany, N.Y., former president Bill Clinton sat in the state Senate chamber as an elector and cast one of the Empire State’s 29 electoral votes for his wife.
“I’ve never cast a vote I was prouder of,” he told reporters after the meeting.
Despite the pleas of Trump opponents, most electors had said for weeks that they planned to cast votes reflecting the will of their home states.
“Any choice was better than Hillary, so it’s not a hard choice for me,” Oklahoma Republican elector Charles Potts said in a recent interview.
Richard Snelgrove, an elector who also serves as a Salt Lake County, Utah, council member, said he had received “thousands of emails, hundreds of letters and a few phone calls — most of them respectful, a couple over the top, and a few that have been downright threatening.”
Most of the messages asked him to vote for Clinton on the grounds that she won the national popular vote. But Snelgrove said there was no justification for such a move.
“No one elected me king, and it’s my job to reflect the will of the people of Utah,” he said. “They chose Trump.”
In Harrisburg, Ray-Ellen Kavey, 68, had driven from neighboring New York state to try to persuade Pennsylvania’s electors to switch allegiance.
“I think the Constitution charges the electors with preventing exactly what is happening here — a hostile takeover of our government by a bigot who has been supported by Russia,” Kavey said. “I know nothing will come of this, but my conscience won’t let me do any less.”
In Austin, Joni Ashbrook, 64, and her best friend, Mary Robinson, 62, stood outside the pink-granite Texas capitol, holding two ends of a banner that Ashbrook had sewed. “Resist Trump’s Agenda,” the sign read.
Ashbrook, a retired fourth-grade science teacher, said that she knew the electors would probably vote for Trump but that she was troubled by Trump’s Cabinet picks and his disregard for global warming.
“I’d like for them to be very thoughtful about what’s going on around them,” Ashbrook said of the electors. “But this is just another way for us to say ‘no.’ ”
In Maryland, all 10 of the state’s electors voted for Clinton during a meeting in the Governor’s Reception Room at the State House in Annapolis. Maryland law requires electors to vote for the winner of the state’s popular vote, which Clinton won easily.
Maggie McIntosh, a state delegate from Baltimore, choked up as she announced the results to an audience of more than 70 spectators.
“This is kind of an emotional moment,” McIntosh said with tears in her eyes. “It’s an emotional moment for many women in this country and this state. Hillary Rodham Clinton was the first woman nominated by a major political party for president of the United States. She won the majority of votes here in Maryland, the electors today have chosen her as president, and she won the majority of votes in this country.”
The CIA’s assessment of Russia’s election interference prompted 10 electors — nine Democrats and one Republican — to request an intelligence briefing to learn more about Moscow’s role, a move endorsed by some of Clinton’s top campaign aides. Other groups had urged electors to postpone the vote until Trump explains what he plans to do about his multinational family business empire.
Trump has declined to explain his plans in person but has tweeted that he will hand over day-to-day responsibilities for his company to his adult sons, who will do “no new deals” while he occupies the White House.
Intelligence officials last week declined requests to brief electors, saying they will provide congressional briefings only when a review ordered by President Obama is completed.
Electors each cast two votes, one for president and one for vice president. In every state, officials prepared a “certificate of vote” to be sent to Washington for processing by Congress and the National Archives.
Lawmakers are scheduled to gather Jan. 6 in the House chamber to hear the results from the states in alphabetical order during a session set to be led by Vice President Biden. It will allow lawmakers to challenge the results or the votes of individual electors.
The Constitution says nothing about how electors should vote, but some states bind them to the results of the popular vote, and some state parties essentially force electors to take a loyalty pledge to serve.
Just a handful of electors tested the limits this year, but it wasn’t immediately clear whether those who voted for people other than Clinton or Trump would face punishment.
While much of the uncertainty headed into the day centered on how many electors would vote against Trump in the states he won, it was Clinton whose tally declined further.
In the state of Washington, a liberal stronghold where the Democratic nominee won the popular vote comfortably, Clinton won eight of the 12 electors. Three of the remaining four cast votes for Powell, who last served in the administration of George W. Bush. And there was the vote for Faith Spotted Eagle.
State Democrats had selected their electors at a lightly attended party convention packed mostly with supporters of Sanders, the runner-up in the Democratic presidential primary race.
Electors in Colorado and Minnesota also tried and failed to buck Clinton. In Maine, elector David Bright initially cast his ballot for Sanders to honor thousands of younger voters who had supported the senator.
But state officials ruled that Bright’s vote was improper. They ordered a revote, and Bright voted the second time for Clinton.
Josh Hicks in Annapolis; Matthew LaPlante in Salt Lake City; Eva Ruth Moravec in Austin; Paul Schwartzman and Sean Sullivan in Washington; and David Weigel in Harrisburg, Pa., contributed to this report.