With interest in the Electoral College surging nationally, Connecticut's seven presidential electors cast their ballots for Hillary Clinton in a well-attended ceremony at the state Capitol Monday afternoon.
The result of the Electoral College vote in Connecticut was assured, but electors in other states were pressured to switch their votes from President-elect Donald Trump to Clinton, who beat Trump in the popular vote by roughly 2.8 million. Trump won the election through an Electoral College victory, which was confirmed by early Monday evening.
When voters cast their ballots for president, they aren't directly electing the candidate they choose. Instead they are voting for a slate of electors chosen by that candidate's party. So seven Democratic electors showed up in the Senate chamber Monday to formally vote for Clinton and her running mate, Tim Kaine.
"This is the real Election Day," said state Rep. Bob Godfrey, D-Danbury, one of the seven. But Godfrey, who believes the country should elect a president based on the popular vote, noted that serving as an elector was "the first position I've ever held I'd be delighted to do away with."
Another elector, state Rep. Christopher Rosario, D-Bridgeport, said the Electoral College "needs some revision." But totally abolishing it could weaken whatever influence Connecticut has in national elections, he said.
"Connecticut is such a small state we may get overlooked," Rosario said.
Barbara Gordon, an elector from West Hartford, said after what happened in 2000 – when Al Gore won the popular vote but lost in the Electoral College to George W. Bush – and again this year, "I think it's time for a change."
Changing the system would be immensely difficult. A National Popular Vote group has been around for years but so far has only been able to get 10 states and the District of Columbia, representing a total of 165 electoral votes, to sign on. It would require states totaling 270 electoral votes to sign on for the compact to take effect.
Incoming House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz said he's been "intrigued" by the idea in the past. But he said he's not likely to make a move in the upcoming session.
A CBS News poll last week found 54 percent of Americans favor electing a president by popular vote.
Monday's ornate ceremony featured musical interludes and saw electors cast their votes in a special ballot box made of wood from the historic Charter Oak that Secretary of the State Denise Merrill's office said is used solely for this purpose every four years. Many dignitaries attended, and students and other interested observers watched from the Senate gallery.
U.S. Rep. John Larson, D-1st District, a former history teacher, said it was important to understand the context behind the Electoral College before calling for its dismissal. He said there were other factors to Clinton's loss that should be examined rather than the electoral process.
"Is voter suppression the issue? Is lack of voter education or apathy the issue? The issue isn't the Electoral College," he said.
Around the country, protests were planned for state capitals, but they did not persuade the Electoral College to dump Trump. An Associated Press survey of electors found very little appetite to vote for alternative candidates.
Some electors did change their vote in other states, including Washington where three voted for former Secretary of State Colin Powell and one for Native American tribal leader Faith Spotted Eagle and Texas where one voted for Ohio Gov. John Kasich and another for former Texas Rep. Ron Paul.
By mid-morning about 50 protesters gathered on the steps of the Capitol in the frigid cold as part of a nationwide effort calling on electors to reject Trump.
Jean Koeppel, who organized the event, said it was about sending a message of dissatisfaction with the Electoral College to politicians and the public.
"It's our obligation as citizens to let ... our country at large know it's vital to change our broken system," she said.
Dave Olsen, a protester from Haddam Neck, said there was a lot of talk about changing the system and electing a president based on the popular vote after the 2000 election.
This year Clinton's margin of victory over Trump is far greater than Gore's over Bush.
"I think people got complacent," after the 2000 election, Olsen said. "I'm hoping this time people don't get complacent."
Wearing a Statute of Liberty crown and clutching a sign that read "Vote to preserve liberty," Cheryl Kapelner-Champ came to the Capitol from Pomfret because she felt it was important to protest Trump's election until the very end.
"When my grandkids ask me what I did I don't want to say 'nothing,'" she said.
Electors in other states should "stand up and object and withhold that vote for Trump," Kapelner-Champ said. "I think the Electoral College was put in place to protect this nation."
U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District, was among those calling on electors nationwide to switch their votes from Trump to Clinton. He called Trump "unhinged" and said the Electoral College must "do what it was designed for." He quoted Alexander Hamilton in Federalist No. 68 when he wrote the Electoral College should ensure "the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications."
A joint session of Congress is scheduled for Jan. 6 to certify the results of the Electoral College vote, with Vice President Joe Biden presiding as president of the Senate. Once the result is certified, the winner will be sworn in on Jan. 20.
The Electoral College was devised at the Constitutional Convention in 1787. It was a compromise between those who wanted popular elections for president and those who wanted no public input.
The Electoral College has 538 members, with the number allocated to each state based on how many representatives it has in the House plus one for each senator. The District of Columbia gets three, despite the fact that the home to Congress has no vote in Congress.
To be elected president, the winner must get at least half plus one — or 270 electoral votes. Most states give all their electoral votes to whichever candidate wins that state's popular vote. Maine and Nebraska award them by congressional district.
A report from the Associated Press was included in this story.