Capitol Alert

AM Alert: Electoral College to cast presidential votes

Elector Jane Morrison, at left, gets escorted to the podium by fellow elector Diane Watson during the Electoral College meeting in the assembly chambers at the state Capitol to formally cast ballots for Barack Obama and Joe Biden on December 17, 2012.
Elector Jane Morrison, at left, gets escorted to the podium by fellow elector Diane Watson during the Electoral College meeting in the assembly chambers at the state Capitol to formally cast ballots for Barack Obama and Joe Biden on December 17, 2012. mcrisostomo@sacbee.com

Today all 538 members of the U.S. Electoral College will gather in states across the country to cast votes for the presidential candidate their constituents favored on Election Day.

In modern times, the Electoral College vote has largely been a symbolic event. But as we’ve learned: 2016 is no ordinary year.

Protesters will gather at California’s Capitol and statehouses throughout the U.S. today to demand that Electoral College members vote for Hillary Clinton, who won the popular vote by more than 2.8 million votes, or at the least reject Donald Trump.

Many Americans are frustrated with the Electoral College system that handed Trump the presidency. Some, including the majority of Californians, believe the system should be abolished altogether, while others are pleading with electors to honor the popular vote.

The protests aren’t aimed at California’s 55 electors. Clinton carried the state with 61.7 percent of the vote and the largest margin of victory in 80 years. The state operates with a winner-take-all system, which means all 55 electoral votes go to Clinton.

Instead frustrated citizens are attempting to appeal to electors in red and swing states and there’s little chance Republicans will rebuff their new president.

An agreement between California, nine other blue states and the District of Columbia could eventually, at least in theory, sidestep the Electoral College system. In 2011, California signed onto a compact to cast its votes in favor of the national winner of the popular vote regardless of the outcome of the Electoral College system. The agreement is null until enough states sign on to secure a majority of Electoral College votes, which is impossible without the help of at least some states that voted Republican in November.

The popular vote winner lost the presidency in two of the last five elections. Each time the system benefited Republicans – George W. Bush in 2000 and Trump in 2016 – leaving some to consider the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact a long shot. Others suggest a more viable option is to allow voters to sign onto the compact in states that permit citizen initiatives.

Protests begin at 11 a.m. California electors will cast their votes at 2 p.m. in the state Assembly chambers. Watch a live webcast of the event here.

WORTH REPEATING: “It’s absolutely false. Without basis. Without evidence.” - Secretary of State Alex Padilla, on President-elect Donald Trump’s claim of massive voter fraud in California and some other states.

WEED MONEY: State Treasurer John Chiang is convening a Cannabis Banking Working Group to address the banking conundrum facing marijuana businesses, who generally get the cold shoulder from banks and other financial institutions because marijuana is still considered an illegal substance at the federal level. Chiang’s office said the group will be comprised of police officers, regulators, banks, taxing agencies, local government officials and the marijuana industry with the hope of finding ways to address the problem. The group meets at 10:30 a.m. in Capitol room 4202.

BY THE NUMBERS: Last Friday’s certification of California’s Nov. 8 election results makes clear where presidential candidates did best. Democrat Hillary Clinton, who carried the state by nearly 4.3 million votes, received 85 percent of the vote in San Francisco, several percentage points higher than her 78.7 percent share in Alameda County. Republican Donald Trump received 72 percent of the vote in Lassen County, followed by 71.2 percent in Modoc County. Green Party nominee Jill Stein drew 6.2 percent of the vote in Humboldt County and Libertarian Gary Johnson had 5.4 percent of the vote in both El Dorado and Sierra counties. And U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who became a write-in candidate after losing to Clinton in the June primary, drew 2.1 percent of the vote in Mendocino and Humboldt counties.

Jim Miller of The Bee Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.

Taryn Luna: 916-326-5545, @TarynLuna

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