Electoral Votes, Special Elections, and Rhode Island Governor News

December 22, 2016

This article originally appeared on BIPAC's blog. Written by BIPAC Political Analyst Jim Ellis.


Despite organized protests and an opposition move by several Democratic electors naming themselves after Alexander Hamilton's Federalist Essay #68, Donald Trump received 99.3% of the electoral votes he won in the states. The Electoral College met in the various state capitols earlier this week, and the announced vote totals awarded Mr. Trump the Presidency. Only two Republican electors refused to vote for him, both from Texas. Ironically, Hillary Clinton lost more votes, four, all from the state of Washington.

The "Hamilton Electors" principal organizers, both from Colorado, were removed from the state's electoral delegation because they intended to violate state law and not vote for the candidate, Hillary Clinton, to whom a plurality of the state voters supported on November 8th.  

In the end, the final Electoral Vote count was 304-228 in favor of Mr. Trump. Retired General Colin Powell received three votes, while Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), ex-Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), and environmental activist Faith Spotted Eagle all recorded one vote apiece. 

The electoral votes, cast by secret ballot, were transported to the National Archivist in Washington where they will be kept until being presented to Congress on January 6th. The votes will then be officially tabulated and the totals read to the members, thus finally ending the 2016 presidential election. 

Protests from the members of Congress, however, can still be lodged. An official protest to individual or delegation electoral votes can be made on January 6th. To officially challenge a vote, at least one member from the House and Senate must jointly come forward to issue the challenge. The full congressional bodies would then return to their separate chambers for consideration of a period lasting no more than two hours, and vote to either sustain or reject the challenge. No electoral vote challenge has ever been sustained. 

Considering the tenor of this election, a challenge is not beyond the realm of possibility, especially over the Russian hacking issue. But, the Republican majorities in both houses would certainly dispense with any such action. The state officials announced their individual electoral vote totals quoted above after tabulating the secret ballots before transporting to the Archivist.


With only one major cabinet position still remaining, that of Agriculture Secretary, speculation has cooled around Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) being appointed. Though reports suggest that President-Elect Trump still wants to select her, strong pressure from her Democratic colleagues may have dissuaded her from accepting the appointment. Heitkamp leaving the Senate would almost assuredly result in her seat going Republican in a special election, meaning that the Republicans would gain a 53rd Senator. 

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D), also under consideration for a Trump cabinet position, announced before the selection of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) as Energy Secretary that he would best serve his Mountain State constituents by remaining in the Senate. 


Another Trump appointment coming from the House of Representatives means yet another congressional special election will be added to what is becoming a second campaign season. So far, President-Elect Trump has chosen four House members for Administration positions, while California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) tabbed Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) as his pick to succeed Senator-Elect Kamala Harris (D) as the state's Attorney General.

The latest Trump selection, that of South Carolina Representative Mick Mulvaney (R-Lancaster) as Director of Office of Management and Budget, means that the Palmetto State's 5th District will join KS-4 (Rep. Mike Pompeo; CIA Director-Designate), GA-6 (Rep. Tom Price; Health & Human Services Secretary-Designate), MT-AL (Rep. Ryan Zinke; Interior Secretary-Designate), and CA-34 (Rep. Becerra) as seats that will host special elections upon the current incumbents resigning after being confirmed to their new posts. 

Rep. Becerra has already resigned from the House, meaning that Gov. Brown will soon schedule the replacement election for that particular seat.


Rhode Island attorney and former gubernatorial candidate Clay Pell (D), grandson of the late Sen. Claiborne Pell (D) who served in Washington for 36 years, says he is not ruling out a 2018 Democratic primary challenge to Gov. Gina Raimondo (D).  Mr. Pell ran in the 2014 open seat contest, receiving 27% of the Democratic vote compared to Ms. Raimondo, then the state's Treasurer, garnering 42%.  Then-Providence Mayor Angel Taveras finished second in that race with 29%. 

Ms. Raimondo has been dogged with several controversies during her term, meaning she will likely face significant Republican opposition even if she dodges a political bullet in the Democrat