Virginia’s 13 Electoral College electors performed their constitutional duty Monday and cast their votes for Democrats Hillary Clinton and U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, who carried the state Nov. 8.
But it wasn’t easy.
With tears in their eyes or emotional pronouncements, the Democratic electors stood on the floor of the Virginia Senate in the state Capitol in Richmond and proudly cast their ballots for Clinton and Kaine.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his vice presidential running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, won enough other states to prevail nationally in the Electoral College tally. Trump will be inaugurated Jan. 20 as the nation’s 45th president.
Elector Terry C. Frye from Bristol praised Clinton, the first female presidential nominee of a major party, for putting “66 million cracks in the glass ceiling,’’ and for fighting for equality.
Frye also expounded during his separate vote for Kaine as vice president, calling him “a great senator,” and “a wonderful human being.”
Virginia has one elector from each congressional district and two at-large electors.
Elector Vivian Page of Norfolk cast her vote for Clinton “with a full heart and clear conscience.”
Tattooed, blue-haired elector Bethany J. Rowland, perhaps the youngest of Virginia’s 13, struggled through tears to announce her vote for Clinton.
The electors selected her mother, fellow elector Susan J. Rowland of Chesapeake, as president of Virginia’s Electoral College. Susan Rowland set the tone in her opening remarks, saying of the Democrats’ loss and Trump’s election: “I also share in your disappointment and concern.”
Rowland predicted that looking back, events “will show in time that we stood on the right side of history.”
The electors were joined on the floor by several notable guests, including Virginia Supreme Court Justice William C. Mims, who administered the oath of office to the electors, and incoming state Sen. Lionell Spruill Sr., D-Chesapeake, a Clinton supporter.
Retiring Rep. Robert Hurt, R-5th, a former state senator, was also seated on the floor to watch his son, John Sydnor Hurt, serve as a page during the proceeding. Omar Edgardo Cortés, the son of Edgardo Cortés, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Elections, also served as a page.
During the ceremony, each elector was required to sign multiple documents, prompting Susan Rowland to quip: “I told you you were going to feel like you were buying a house today.”
Electors took turns using their smartphones to record votes and document signings.
Upstairs, electors’ family and friends and Democratic Party officials crowded into the Senate gallery, nearly filling it, and strained to take photos from above.
The last two Virginia Electoral College elections, in 2008 and 2012, were held in the larger House of Delegates chamber, but officials declined a request to make it available to the State Board of Elections for Monday’s proceeding.
A coalition opposed to Trump’s election had organized protests in all 50 states, where electors gathered Monday to formally cast votes.
Because Democrats won Virginia, there was little practical reason for anti-Trump protesters to worry about how the Democrats would vote. But the event still drew several dozen protesters to the Bank Street entrance of the state Capitol, where they held signs and chanted slogans against Trump’s imminent election.
“Electors, wake up. Break this mess up,” the protesters chanted.
“You have a choice. Use your voice.”
Among the signs they carried were messages such as: “Putin’s Puppet,” “Vote Your Conscience” and “Do the Right Thing.”
“We’re really concerned about the possibility of Trump being president,” said Shelli Frydman, 64, a massage therapist who made the drive from Chantilly in Fairfax County to stand in the cold with other protesters who apparently had been organized through social media.
“I think it’s important to speak out (against) somebody so divisive for the country. It reminds me of Hitler and how he came to power,” said Frydman, who said she is the daughter of Holocaust survivors.
“If you don’t speak out, the bullies take over,” she said. “I’ve been waking up every morning with a sinking feeling a dread of what is on the horizon.”
A bundled-up Roger Hildreth, 81, of Richmond wore a handmade Kermit the Frog winter cap.
“I’m concerned about what’s happening to the country,” he said. “I want to see anybody but Trump in that office,” though he acknowledged that his presence outside the Capitol and the day’s collective protests would likely have little impact on the inevitability of Trump’s election.
He added: “I hope things change at the midterms.”