SALT LAKE CITY — A former Republican state lawmaker and congressional candidate had hoped to cast his Electoral College ballot for the next president of the United States.
But Chris Herrod said it was still an honor to participate Monday as presidential electors gathered in Utah and across the country to elect the president and vice president.
“I look at it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said.
Utah’s six electoral votes went to President Donald Trump, who defeated Democrat Joe Biden in the popular vote in Utah 58% to 37%. Trump had 865,140 votes to Biden’s 560,282.
“It looks like the election is going to go to Biden. I’d rather have my vote go to the winner, so it’s not exactly how I hoped it would be,” said Herrod, who brought his 12-year-old son Reagan to the state Capitol to witness the event. Each elector was allowed to bring one guest.
California, the nation’s largest state with a slate of 55 Democratic electors, put Biden over the Electoral College threshold to win the presidency later on Monday. Biden’s electors voted without incident throughout the day in states where Trump and his supporters have contested the results, according to Politico.
Biden finished with 306 electoral votes to 232 for Trump.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints congratulated Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and wished Trump and Vice President Mike Pence well in a statement Monday.
“We invite people everywhere, whatever their political views, to join us in praying for this new administration and for leaders of nations around the world,” according to the statement. “The men and women who lead our nations and communities need our prayers.”
Utah’s six presidential electors — wearing masks and maintaining social distance — gathered in the Capitol boardroom around conference tables to sign their ballots — one for president and one for vice president per the 12th Amendment. The ballots are immediately transmitted to the president of the U.S. Senate, which is the vice president, and will be counted in a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6.
Like Herrod, former GOP Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes, one of Trump’s early supporters, hoped to sign his ballot for the winning presidential candidate.
“I’m passionate about the things I believe in and I am about that. But this is really bigger than any respective race, and I know that and I I feel that. It is bittersweet but I’m thankful that we have this process that we do,” said Hughes, also a first-time elector.
Hughes said the Electoral College ensures that every state has “skin in the game.”
Kris Udy, a former Box Elder County Commission candidate, cast her ballot wearing a pink Trump 2020 mask.
“It was amazing for me. I’m political geek. It was a highlight of my lifetime,” said Udy, who brought her 82-year-old father along, who also is into politics.
Udy’s only regret was that she forgot her cellphone to take pictures.
Though he acknowledged Biden secured the electoral votes to become president, Republican Utah Sen. Mike Lee said concerns regarding fraud and irregularities remain active in multiple states and need to be addressed by Congress and state and local officials throughout the country.
“But absent new information that could give rise to a judicial or legislative determination altering the impact of today’s Electoral College votes, Joe Biden will become president of the United States on January 20, 2021,” he said in a statement.
Hughes said he doesn’t know what’s left for Trump to pursue in the courts, especially after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Texas’ lawsuit against four swing states. He said if there was any chance, it had to be done before electors convened to vote.
“But look, it’s 2020. Who really knows?” he said.
Each state’s electors are equal to the number of members the states have in Congress. Utah has four House representatives in addition to two senators for a total of six electoral votes.
In Utah, electors are bound to vote for the winner of the state’s popular vote. If an elector chooses another candidate, he or she is considered to have resigned, the vote is not recorded and the remaining electors appoint someone else on the spot.
Political parties pick presidential electors at their state conventions.
In addition to Herrod, Hughes and Udy, Utah’s Republican electors are former Congresswoman Mia Love, Washington County GOP Chairman Jimi Kestin, and Trent Christensen, who ran for Congress in the 4th District. Love filled in as an alternate for Reyes, who was in quarantine after being exposed to COVID-19.