The long, contentious presidential campaign – fraught with anger and the weight of history – came to an end in California on Monday with a final burst of emotion.
As President-elect Donald Trump elsewhere racked up the 270 electoral votes he needed to clinch his victory, California’s 55 electors gathered at the state Capitol to vote for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in a muted display of formality. Then, in parting defiance, they passed a resolution urging a public investigation into Russian interference and “possible collusion” with Trump operatives.
“We do not normalize this election,” said Christine Pelosi, the elector for the 12th Congressional District represented by her mother, Nancy Pelosi. “We do not passively let hacking drive the narrative of scandal over policy. We do not let the politics of personal destruction stop us from standing up, speaking out, answering our call to service and making a difference.”
Her introduction of the measure was met with a wild cheer from fellow electors and observers. On Friday, President Barack Obama affirmed in a news conference that Russian operatives hacked the Democratic National Committee earlier this year and leaked embarrassing documents, an incident that many Clinton supporters believe contributed to her loss.
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It was an exhalation of excitement following a somber proceeding that veered between peace, including an opening prayer from the Buddhist reverend Bob Oshita, and deathly silence, as electors’ ballots were distributed and returned.
When Laphonza Butler, president of the SEIU Local 2015 union and chair of the electors, announced that Clinton and her running mate, Tim Kaine, had won all 55 votes, as expected under California’s winner-takes-all system, there was only polite applause.
The electors’ anger and despair was amplified outside the Capitol, where more than 500 attended an anti-Trump protest. Speakers urged electors to change their vote, denying the president-elect a majority and taking the election to the House of Representatives. Signs mocked Trump as a “puppet” of Russian President Vladimir Putin and implored the country to “defend democracy” by dumping the Electoral College.
Jeremy Lent, 56, and Elizabeth Ferguson, 46, of Berkeley had been contacting electors in Republican states hoping to change their minds. Lent said he looked up the social media profiles of electors and reached out some in Wisconsin and Texas whose “sense of civic duty and patriotism” he thought he could appeal to.
“This is not a normal situation,” Lent said. Trump “is someone who has stated that he is against the very tenets of what our democracy has been about.”
Ferguson said the demonstration felt “like the ethical thing to do.” She added that Trump’s opponents would continue to find ways to resist his presidency.
“We’re standing up peacefully to say we’re not going to let this happen here,” she said.
Others, like Virginia Matzek, 47, of Davis, had little expectation their protest would change the results. She said she came to the Capitol to make a statement.
“I’m here to resist the policies and agenda I see coming,” she said. “Dissent is patriotic.”
She was joined by her mother, Mary Matzek, 76, who drove 2 1/2 hours from Murphys to attend the demonstration. Expressing hope the country would eventually abolish the electoral college and have a “fair vote,” she carried a sign with a picture of Trump’s hair that read, “We shall over comb.”