In this Dec. 13, 2016, photo, President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the Wisconsin State Fair Exposition Center in West Allis, Wis. Although pestered to a fare-thee-well to abandon Donald Trump, Republican electors appear to be in no mood for an insurrection in the presidential campaign's last voting ritual. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Photo: Evan Vucci
Photo: Evan Vucci

Anti-Trump groups step up pressure on Georgia GOP electors

A sweep of nationwide protests outside state Capitols. A last-ditch lobbying campaign. Thousands upon thousands of emails, phone calls and personal appeals from Hillary Clinton supporters and other Donald Trump skeptics.

Trump’s fiercest opponents are pulling out all the stops to try to sway enough electors to abandon the Republican on Monday, when the Electoral College formally decides the next president.

It is likely to be a fruitless endeavor. Only one or two electors across the nation have signaled they might reject Trump and an Atlanta Journal-Constitution survey of Georgia’s 16 GOP electors showed no sign of defiance. Michael McNeely, one of the Georgia electors, said the appeals he and others are receiving are headed to the dustbin.

“The people have spoken, and we’re going to do our duties as Georgia electors to vote for Donald Trump on Monday,” said McNeely, who is the vice-chair of the Georgia GOP. “It’s imperative that we support the incoming president and the conservative principles that work for all Americans.”

Despite the long odds, though, Trump’s opponents are planning to protest Monday in Atlanta and 49 other state capitals to try to pressure members of the Electoral College.

They argue that Hillary Clinton’s victory in the popular vote – she leads Trump by more than 2.8 million votes – should make the Democrat president.

“The electors have both the Constitutional right and the moral responsibility to stop Trump,” said Daniel Brezenoff, whose petition urging electors to dump Trump attracted nearly 5 million signatures. “He lost the popular vote and he should lose on December 19 at the Electoral College.”

And organizers of an Atlanta demonstration at the statehouse Monday cast it in similar terms. They plan to gather outside the Gold Dome as Republican officials head to the state Senate chambers to watch Georgia electors vote.

“The die has not yet been cast,” they wrote of electors. “The fate of the American populace, the safety of the world, is in their hands.”

Little appettite for a revolt

Georgia is one of about 20 states that doesn’t bind electors to the winner of the state’s vote, but there have been relatively few cases where that’s happened. And no vote switch has ever affected the outcome of a presidential election.

Still, Trump’s critics are partly inspired by Baoky Vu, a Georgia GOP elector who said in August that he might not cast his Electoral College ballot for Trump if he won. He was forced to resign from his post hours later, but he’s been made into something of a hero for Trump critics hoping electors block his ascension to the White House.

While a few of the 306 Republican electors have hedged over their support of Trump, hardly any have indicated they won’t vote for him. The highest-profile defector is Christopher Suprun, a Texas elector who called on fellow Republicans to dump Trump in a New York Times editorial.

“I believe electors should unify behind a Republican alternative, an honorable and qualified man or woman such as Gov. John Kasich of Ohio,” he wrote. “I pray my fellow electors will do their job and join with me in discovering who that person should be.”

Electors are being lobbied directly as well. Left-leaning groups have circulated the names, emails, phone numbers and sometimes the home addresses of GOP electors, triggering a flood of hand-written letters, homemade YouTube clips and urgent pleas to reject Trump.

“The themes seem to follow the Democrat talking points. When they change, the emails change,” said Kirk Shook, an Oconee County educator who is a GOP elector.

“First it was the Electoral College should award the popular vote winner. Then it was ‘hold out for the recounts.’ Then it was ‘the Russians are coming!’ Now it is telling us to wait until we get a CIA briefing — I’m sure tomorrow will be something different.”

At least one-quarter of the 232 Democratic electors have signed a letter calling for the entire Electoral College to receive a briefing from the nation’s top intelligence briefing about potential Russian interference in the U.S. election.

And the liberal Democracy and Progress PAC took out full-page advertisements in newspapers across the nation this week, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, calling for electors to revolt against Trump and “exercise your conscience.”

The pleas don’t seem to be working. An Associated Press survey of more than 330 electors from both parties showed the overwhelming majority are sticking to their candidates. And 15 of the 16 Georgia electors reached by the AJC — dedicated GOP activists hand-picked by Republican party leaders — said they would support Trump.

The final elector could not be reached because he has not been formally tapped to replace Vu yet. But Trump critics who hope another potential defector will replace him will be disappointed. Republican officials say Georgia GOP chair John Padgett, a stalwart Trump supporter, is set to take Vu’s place.

Reverse lobbying

There has been lobbying by Trump loyalists, too. Former Republican state Rep. Jeff Brown wrote in an open letter to Georgia electors warning of a sharp backlash if any considered backing Kasich, Mitt Romney or another Republican in a protest vote.

“None of them have been vetted like Trump, done any of the work Trump is doing to get ready to be president,” he wrote. “And most of the 62,914,474 of us who voted for Trump would be infuriated!”

Some electors aren’t taking the protests and pleas personally.

“When a person accepts a position that brings you to the public eye, you have to accept that responsibility and the calls that come with it,” said Bruce Azevedo, a real estate agent who has received a mountain of emails. “It is the public’s right to express their opinions.”

Still, many will be glad when the vote is over.

Shook, the Oconee educator, received more than 72,300 messages as of Thursday morning.

One of them, he said, carried the misspelled subject line: “This is the most important email that I will ever right.”

“If you don’t know the difference between right and write,” he said, “then you probably shouldn’t be lecturing me about my constitutional duty.”