In a ceremony that was historic and devoid of suspense, all 29 Florida presidential electors voted for Donald Trump on Monday and did their part to make him the next president of the United States.
The ceremony ended weeks of efforts by disappointed and angry voters across the country who wrote letters, fired off emails, filed lawsuits and finally staged protests in an effort to prevent Trump from becoming the nation’s 45th president on Jan. 20.
As electors gathered in the state Capitol in a ceremony replicated in 49 other state capitals across the country, about 200 demonstrators assembled in the rotunda just outside.
The event was held in the newly-remodeled state Senate chamber under the direction of Secretary of State Ken Detzner, and the electors applauded loudly as he announced the result.
Seated in alphabetical order, each of the 29 electors cast separate paper ballots for Trump and for Vice President-elect Mike Pence.
Florida is one of 29 states in which electors are legally bound to vote for the candidate of their party.
They included Attorney General Pam Bondi, who’s widely expected to resign her post sometime in 2017 for a new job in Trump’s White House; Susie Wiles, a Jacksonville-area political consultant who managed Trump’s once-unthinkable Florida triumph; and Sharon Day of Fort Lauderdale, a top national Republican official.
Florida is one of 29 states in which electors are legally bound to vote for the candidate of their party, but that didn’t stop about 200 demonstrators from peacefully protesting the certification of Trump’s Florida victory.
A small demonstration by Tallahassee standards, the protesters gathered first in a cold morning rain outside the Capitol before moving indoors, where they chanted “Love trumps hate” and held handmade signs that read “unfit to serve” and “stop Trump.”
Beverly Lynn left Sarasota at 2:30 a.m. for the five-hour-plus drive to the Capitol for the protest. She said that to remain silent made her “part of the problem,” but that she knew that protests were unlikely to change any electors’ minds.
“Miracles happen,” Lynn said. “I hope there are some really brave men and women in there.”
Maxwell Frost of Orlando helped organize the protest as part of the group Democracy Spring, one of several groups that held coordinated protests at other state capitals.
“We’re here today so we can show solidarity for those electors that want to vote against Trump and flip the vote,” Frost said. “Not everyone is going to change their mind, that’s true, but we’re here for those who do want to change their mind.”
Kathryn Plumb, 14, and her mother, Leigh Touchton, drove from Valdosta, Georgia, to Tallahassee — a much shorter drive than to their home-state capital of Atlanta — to urge a no vote on Trump.
“He goes back on his word and everything he says is untrustworthy,” Plumb said. “And the way he treats women is terrifying. As a kid, I don’t want to turn 18 and have him rule my teenage years or just be in charge of my life in general, because as a woman I can’t trust him to make decisions for me.”
For one of Trump’s earliest Florida supporters, Monday brought a sense of pride and satisfaction after being ostracized for choosing Trump over both of Florida’s favorite-son candidates for president, former Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.
Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, was one of two electors from Pinellas County, which proved crucial to Trump’s Florida victory.
Ahern, who claims to be the first elected official in Florida to endorse Trump more than a year ago, never attended a Trump rally and has not met Trump.
He said his email inbox was “all jammed up” with messages from people urging him not to ratify the election result, but he said he didn’t read any of them.
“It’s a little sad that progressives, liberals, Democrats that are pushing this can’t accept the facts,” Ahern said. “He’s the elected president.”
With reporting from Times/Herald staff writer Michael Auslen