Maine Elector Switches Second Vote From Sanders to Clinton

December 19, 2016 Updated: December 19, 2016    

A Democratic presidential elector created an uproar by voting for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders before backing down and supporting Hillary Clinton, overshadowing Maine’s first time ever splitting its electoral votes for president.

Maine made history by giving electoral votes to both major party candidates — one for Republican President-elect Donald Trump and three for Clinton, a Democrat.

But that historic first was overshadowed by elector David Bright who decided to vote for Clinton on a second vote, in keeping with state law that requires the electoral vote to mirror the voting results from the general election.

Republican Gov. Paul LePage didn’t think much of the aborted attempt by Bright.

“You can’t fix stupid. You can’t legislate intelligence. We’ve had a system that’s worked just fine for (more than 200 years). It makes no sense to me,” he said.

Maine is one of only two states to divide its electoral votes, and it is the first time it has happened in Maine since the system was put in place for the 1972 election. Two electoral votes are awarded for the statewide winner and one apiece is awarded for the winners of the two congressional districts.

Voters in the inland, rural 2nd Congressional district supported Republican President-elect Donald Trump in the election, while those in the urban, coastal 1st Congressional District supported Clinton, who also won the most votes statewide.

Protesters gathered at the Statehouse rallied against Trump and encouraged New England’s sole Republican elector to withhold his support for the New York businessman.

In below-freezing temperatures, the bundled-up protesters chanted and held signs reading, “This is not the United States of Russia” as a drum steadily beat in the background.

“He’s going to line his pockets and his friends’ pockets,” said Suzanne Sayer, of Kittery. She called Trump a “Putin stooge,” a reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Maine GOP Chairman Rick Bennett received a standing ovation after casting the state’s sole electoral vote for Trump. The elector has said he had received threats from people who did not want him to cast his ballot for Trump.

Maine law requires presidential electors to vote according to the results of the popular vote.

But there’s no penalty if an elector chooses to reject the people’s will and vote for a different candidate, officials said.

If the first vote had stood, Bright, an organic farmer, would’ve gone down in history as the first so-called “faithless elector” in Maine history, according to the Maine State Law and Legislative Reference Library.

“In my first vote today, I cast my ballot for Sanders. On the second vote, because I took an oath to uphold the laws of the state of Maine, I voted for Clinton,” he said.

In a speech before electors cast their votes, Maine’s state archivist emphasized the importance of electors upholding the people’s will and the rareness of faithless electors.

One of the electors had to be replaced at the last minute.

Sam Shapiro of Winslow had a problem with his flight from Florida and was unable to make it to Maine for the vote.

“At 89, this is my last opportunity to be involved in the political and Democratic political process. I’m sitting here ready to cry. I sure as hell didn’t want to miss it,” Shapiro said Monday from Del Ray Beach, Florida.