Usually a mundane formality, this year’s Electoral College voting at the Maine State House will attract dueling demonstrations from supporters and critics of Republican President-elect Donald Trump.

Maine’s four Electoral College electors will meet on the floor of the Maine House of Representatives at 2 p.m. Monday to cast their ballots, with three of them set to vote for Democrat Hillary Clinton and one to vote for Trump.

While the vote takes place, one group will protest outside the State House in hopes of swaying the fourth elector away from Trump. The December 19 Coalition – a network that includes Democracy Spring, Americans Take Action, the Electoral College Petition and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee – is trying to organize similar events in all 50 states. Because Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, they argue the Electoral College should reject Trump in her favor.

“We are there to protest this one vote being cast for Donald Trump because we think he is so dangerous for all of mankind,” said Sara Moscoso, a Swanville resident and one of the local organizers for Showing Up for Racial Justice of the Mid-Coast.

In response, the Maine Republican Party has planned a rally and march from its office on Higgins Street. The participants will surround party Chairman Rick Bennett, an Oxford Resident and the Electoral College elector for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District. Bennett has said he intends to follow the “expressed will” of the voters in casting his ballot for Trump, who defeated Clinton in the 2nd Congressional District.

“Now, I don’t think it’s overly dramatic to say that I do not want to see him having to wade through a crowd of protesters without a strong contingent of proud and strong supporters by his side,” Jason Savage, the Maine Republican Party’s executive director, wrote in an email to supporters. “So please, help us help Chairman Bennett as he makes history casting Maine’s Electoral Ballot for Donald J. Trump.”

Neither Bennett nor Savage responded to requests for comment Friday afternoon.

Three of Maine’s Electoral College electors – Diane Denk of Kennebunk; David Bright of Dixmont and Samuel Shapiro of Winslow – are expected to vote for Clinton on Monday. Bennett said he has received nearly 300 emails and letters from across the country asking him to change his vote.

Across the country, other Republicans have been besieged by similar pleas.

While the efforts to derail Trump’s confirmation as the winner of the 2016 U.S. presidential election are unlikely to succeed, a small number of electors are refusing to vote for him.

Among them is Texas Republican Art Sisneros, who resigned in late November rather than vote for Trump. He told the Associated Press he could not vote for Clinton, but he also could not ignore his reservations about the president-elect.

“As a Christian, I came to the conclusion that Mr. Trump is not biblically qualified for that office,” he said.

Maine and Nebraska are the only states that allocate Electoral College votes based on the outcomes in each of their congressional districts. In Maine, the candidate with the highest statewide vote total earns two of the state’s four electoral votes, and the two others go to the candidate with most votes in each of its two congressional districts.

This is the first time in 28 years that a Republican presidential candidate has won an electoral vote in Maine, and the first time since 1828 that Maine divided its Electoral College votes.

Maine is one of 30 states with laws requiring electors to vote as pledged. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the consequence for violating these laws is often a fine, but no elector has ever been penalized or replaced.

Moscoso said she hopes Bennett changes his mind and disregards Maine’s law. Her organization already had started planning a protest for Monday to show support for people of color and immigrants in Maine. When they learned of the December 19 Coalition, the two efforts merged into one.

In particular, Moscoso said the group wants to represent people of color and immigrants who are worried about possible impacts of Trump’s presidency

“I hope that there will be images in the newspaper that show the marginalized communities of Maine that there are more of us who stand with them and support them and embrace the diversity that does exist here,” she said.

Leslie Manning, a Bath resident who joined the organizers when she learned of the event on social media, couldn’t estimate how many people will attend. More than 100 people had expressed interest on Facebook by Friday evening, but she wasn’t sure how many people had responded on the December 19 Coalition’s website – www.december19.us.

“In a perfect world, we’ll have a couple hundred people huddling together to stay warm,” she said.

Moscoso and Manning both said they have sent letters to Bennett asking him to change his vote.

“I’m there to appeal to the better angels of our nature, not only in the case of Mr. Bennett, but all of us, as we step into what I’m sure is going to be a very challenging four years,” Manning said.

“I’m a big believer in miracles,” she added.

In his email to Maine Republicans, Savage dismissed that hope.

“I know you have probably seen the news coverage about the flood of emails and phone calls Chairman Bennett has received trying to convince him to change his vote,” he wrote. “It is not happening. Chairman Bennett is an honorable man who respects our republic and the people that comprise it. He WILL cast his historic vote for President-Elect Donald J. Trump, and no amount of protest will persuade him to go against the wishes of Maine’s Second Congressional District.”

Staff Writer Scott Thistle contributed to this report.

 


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