HELENA — Montana’s three Republican electors cast their votes Monday for President Trump, at a short and lightly attended ceremony at the state Capitol.
Montana’s three votes for Trump – who beat Democrat Joe Biden in the state by 16 percentage points – contributed to Trump’s 232 electoral votes nationally. But Biden won the presidency with 302 electoral votes and will be inaugurated Jan. 20.
The Montana electors – Becky Stockton of Helena, and Thelma Baker and state Rep. Brad Tschida of Missoula – cast their votes for Trump and Vice President Mike Pence and signed certificates that will be sent to the U.S. Senate, the chief federal judge of Montana, the National Archives and Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton.
State political parties choose their respective electors, and the ones chosen by the party whose candidate wins the state cast the votes on Monday. The next big step in the presidential-election process is congressional certification of the results on Jan. 6.
Stapleton, Montana’s chief election officer, presided over Monday’s half-hour ceremony in a meeting room on the ground floor of the Capitol.
Once the voting finished, Stapleton thanked the electors, the voters of Montana for “being actively engaged in our democracy” and Montana’s county election administrators for “conducting fair, accurate and open elections.”
Montana conducted most of its balloting by mail, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, resulting in a record general election turnout of 612,000 voters, or 81.3 percent of those registered. That smashed the old record by 95,000 votes.
In the wake of President Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results, some states beefed up security for Monday’s electoral voting, expecting possible protests or counter-protests.
But those protests mostly failed to materialize – and were non-existent in Helena Monday.
A half-dozen observers attended the ceremony, and most were friends or family members of the electors.
While the Capitol is requiring the public to wear face masks during the pandemic, about half the people in the room did not, including Stapleton and two of the electors. Baker, who attended in a wheelchair because she had a stroke this summer, wore a face-mask.
Stapleton also provided a short history lesson on the Electoral College, saying it was a compromise between constitutional framers, some of whom wanted a popular vote to choose the president and others who wanted Congress to choose the president, or other non-direct-vote methods.
The framers, who created the Electoral College in 1787, thought state loyalties could trump the best interests of a national government and feared it might be difficult to elect a president of “national prestige,” he said. The Electoral College was meant to appease both smaller and larger states, he said.
“If a candidate was required to win states instead of just the popular vote, however, it would be more likely that he would have wide-ranging support outside his home state,” Stapleton said. “This was a concern for smaller states that feared domination of the presidency by states with large populations.”