By: Brian McLain
Garnering a significantly greater amount of attention than most election cycles, the Electoral College cast their ballots to bring the 2016 presidential election to a close. The result put Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, over the 270 elector vote threshold to seal his claim to the Oval Office.
You will find plenty of press and commentary regarding the battle between Clinton and Trump. However, what may get swept under the rug is how truly historic yesterday was.
First and foremost, yesterday Hillary Clinton became the first woman to receive any electoral votes for the office of President of the United States, garnering 227 of those votes. Before Clinton, there were only two other women to receive any Electoral votes, and those were Theodora “Tonie” Nathan, a Libertarian Vice Presidental candidate in 1972, and Geraldine Ferraro, a Democratic Vice Presidential candidate in 1984.
Hillary Clinton made history in another way yesterday, but likely not in a way she would appreciate. Clinton was the first presidential candidate since James Madison, in 1808, to be rejected by more than three of their own party electors. Madison saw six electors defect to George Clinton, while Hillary Clinton saw eight electors cast their ballots for someone else. Of those eight, two electors were removed and replaced with alternates per state law, and one in Maine had his vote ruled “improper,” forcing him to change his vote to Clinton. The only other time a presidential candidate had seen more electors turn away from them was in 1872, when Democratic nominee, Horace Greeley, died prior to the vote. Sixty-three electors decided it wasn’t prudent to vote for a dead candidate.
Though there were fewer “faithless” electors turning away from now President-elect Donald Trump, his victory was anything but clean thanks to Texas. In a drama-filled battle just short of a full-blown mutiny of the state party, several Texas electors had to be replaced by alternates because they refused to show up to cast their ballots. After the dust had settled, two electors had decided against supporting the party’s nominee, making Trump the most rebelled against Republican candidate for President in the party’s 162-year history. Of the two votes, one went to former presidential candidate John Kasich, the other, to 2008 and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul.
Out of the Democratic “faithless” electors, Senator Bernie Sanders received, in total, four electoral votes. One vote each came from Maine, Minnesota, Colorado, and Hawaii. Due to state laws regulating electors three of those votes were overruled and went to Clinton. The ballot cast in the Hawaii, however, stuck, making Bernie Sanders the first American Jew to receive an electoral vote for President, and only the second American Jew to ever win an electoral vote. The honor of the first Jewish candidate to win an electoral vote goes, once again, to Libertarian Vice Presidential candidate Theodora “Tonie” Nathan in 1972.
Finally, and most incredibly, was one of the four electoral votes that rejected Clinton in Washington state. Three of those votes went to former Republican Secretary of State, Colin Powell (which may or may not have been a statement on Clinton’s handling of the office). The last vote, however, went to Faith Spotted Eagle. Faith is a Native and environmental activist and has been a vocal opponent of the Dakota Access and Keystone pipelines. Now she is also the first Native American in the history of the United States to win a presidential electoral vote. During a year strife and struggle at Standing Rock and blatant attacks on Native rights and sovereignty, one elector cast their vote for a powerful voice for the Native population. The vote came from Robert Satiacum, a member of Washington’s Puyallup Tribe, who said he wanted to cast his ballot for a “real leader.”
As this incredible, dramatic, and unexpected election cycle comes to a close, let us take this time as an opportunity to recognize that every single individual can affect change. We all have the power to be that change we want to see. While the outcome of this election sets us on an uncertain path, let us remember that this is also the year many of us found a voice. We found friends. We found passion. We found strength. We found hope.
Our work has only just begun, and we all must come together to fight for a future we can believe in. We have changed the landscape of presidential politics. We have stopped pipelines. We have proven that no matter what the odds or the obstacles, we will not go quietly into the night.
Together, we have done the impossible, and that makes us mighty.
Together, we will win.