UPDATE: AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — 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.

AUGUSTA — For the first time, one of Maine’s electors plans to cast a ballot for someone he’s not pledged to support.

Instead of voting for Democrat Hillary Clinton, elector David Bright said he intends today to use his position to hand an electoral vote to U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Democrat.

Bright said he wants to show the many young people who brought “energy and enthusiasm” into the political system in their quest for a Sanders presidency that “somebody was listening, that somebody heard them.”

If Bright follows through, Maine would wind up handing Clinton two votes and giving both Sanders and Republican Donald Trump one vote each. Trump gained a vote by winning the state’s 2nd Congressional District.

The Electoral College is scheduled to meet at 2 p.m. at the State House.

Across the country, there are 538 electoral votes being cast today. If they all remain loyal, Trump is expected to get 306. But at least one Republican elector, from Texas, has said he will defect.

There’s been lots of talk about some Democrats switching away from Clinton in the hope of luring GOP electors to dump Trump in favor of a more moderate Republican or other mainstream choice. Their plan is to try to throw the race into the U.S. House for a final decision by preventing Trump from getting a majority.

But it’s unlikely that even among Democrats more than a dozen or so will actually drop their support for Clinton. It’s even less probable that many Republican electors will follow suit.

Maine’s sole GOP elector, Republican Party Chairman Richard Bennett, has said he’s sticking with Trump. He’ll be the only Trump elector in New England, New Jersey or New York.

There’s no penalty under Maine law to punish what are known as “faithless electors” who don’t follow through on the expectation they’ll vote for the candidate elected by the people.

Bright, a political activist and organic farmer from Dixmont, was a big Sanders backer during the tough primary campaign that Clinton ultimately won.

Bright said he doesn’t see any possibility that Clinton could wind up with enough electoral votes or support in the House to win the presidency under any scenario. 

Since “that ain’t gonna to happen,” he said he asked himself, “How can I salvage something out of it?”

He said he decided that backing Sanders at the Electoral College would show a young generation that loved him that their support mattered and that it’s worth their time to stay involved and to keep pushing.

“In the long run, it does matter,” Bright said. “They need to stick around because we need them.”

He pointed out that two-thirds of Maine’s Democratic convention delegates wanted Sanders to be their candidate this year.

The last time an elector failed to cast an expected vote occurred 40 years ago when one from Washington ignored President Gerald Ford’s victory in his state and cast a ballot instead for Ronald Reagan, who had lost a primary to Ford.

This year will almost certainly see the most defections in the Electoral College since the early days of the country, when elections were not nearly as focused on the popular vote.

Here is a statement Bright said he plans to read at the Electoral College today:

If my vote today could have helped Secretary Clinton win the presidency, I would have voted for her. But as the Electoral College meets all across this nation on this day, I see no likelihood of 38 Republican electors defecting from their party and casting their ballots for Secretary Clinton. 

So Hillary Clinton will not become President, and there is nothing I can do about that. Knowing this, I was left to find a positive statement I could make with my vote.

I am not a Clinton elector, I am a Democratic elector. I do not represent Democrats all over the country, I represent the Democrats in Maine.

I cast my vote for Bernie Sanders not out of spite, or malice, or anger, or as an act of civil disobedience. I mean no disrespect to our nominee. I cast my vote to represent thousands of Democratic Maine voters – many less than a third my age – who came into Maine politics for the first time this year because of Bernie Sanders. They organized, telephoned and sent in their 27 dollars. Many stood in line for hours in order to navigate our byzantine system of caucuses and convention this Spring so they could be among the two thirds of Maine Democrats who cast a vote for Sanders.

Most importantly, they did this to vote FOR someone they believed in, not to vote against someone they feared.

Sadly, when the primary season was over, and their candidate was not successful, many of them lost hope, as well as interest. Many felt the Democratic Party had not listened to them, did not care about them, and did not respect them. Their sense of loss in July became our Party’s loss in November.

Democracy is hard, and messy, and complicated, and those of us who have been at this game for a long time have learned to take the defeats when they come. But those lessons don’t come easily for new voters.

So I cast my Electoral College vote for Bernie Sanders today to let those new voters who were inspired by him know that some of us did hear them, did listen to them, do respect them and understand their disappointment. I want them to know that not only can they come back to the process, but that they will be welcomed back; that there is room in the Democratic Party for their values.

To go forward, the Democratic Party needs these young voters.

More importantly, America needs these young voters.

I can’t do anything to change the results of the election this year. But perhaps by encouraging these idealistic voters to stick around, I can change the results of elections to come.


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