In front of about 40 people carrying signs urging them to do otherwise and others supporting their decision, Arkansas’ six electors one by one voted Monday (Dec. 19) for Donald J. Trump to be the next president of the United States.
The event began at 10 a.m. at the Old Supreme Court room at the State Capitol and concluded about half an hour later.
After electing Jonathan Barnett of Siloam Springs to chair the commission and taking the oath of office, several electors explained their decision by addressing the courtroom. John Nabholz of Conway said he had received thousands of emails and hundreds of letters.
“Many of the letter writers asked me to do the right thing,” he said. “I plan to do so now. Many of the letter writers asked me to protect our Constitution and republic. I plan to do so now. Many of the letter writers asked me to follow my conscience. I plan to do so now. I am voting as pledged to the voters of Arkansas. I am voting for someone who can change the politics as usual and make major reforms to the way our government operates.”
Keith Gibson of Fort Smith said seeing the Trump opponents made him “proud to be an American.”
“You may not like how I vote this morning, but I appreciate what you do, and I appreciate this country, and the fact that we live in a country where you can speak your mind as freely as I can,” he said.
Prior to the meeting, Gibson said he had received close to 70,000 emails, 100 handwritten letters, and maybe a dozen phone calls. He said 99% of the emails came from out of state and many were mass emails, but he tried to read some and paid the closest attention to those that were handwritten. He did receive emails from the so-called “Hamilton electors” who had tried to convince their fellow electors not to vote for Trump.
Asked if he had thought about voting for someone else, he said, “I can’t say that I did. What I can say is that I read the letters and considered the position of those who asked me not to do that, but I don’t think I ever came to a point where I said I will not do that, I will vote for someone else. I never reached that point.”
Individuals carried signs with messages such as “Our forefathers planned for this day” and “37 Patriots Could Make History,” referring to the number of Trump electors nationwide who would have to vote for another candidate to send the election into the U.S. House of Representatives. One sign encouraged the electors to vote for Ohio Gov. John Kasich. One Trump supporter wore a red “Make America Great Again” hat.
Billy Marshall of Malvern held a sign saying, “I’m sorry I voted for Trump. Save America.” He said he was concerned about what has happened after the election – the involvement of the Russians in the election and Trump’s cabinet appointments. He said he voted for Trump because, “Like everybody else did, I guess, make America great. But what I’ve seen, he lied through his teeth. He’s not even keeping up with what he said he was going to do.”
Gibson and several other electors spoke sympathetically and cordially before the vote with Suzanne Scherer of Fayetteville, who voted for Hillary Clinton. He said he told her and others opposed to Trump, “I long for the day when we we can have cordial dialogue again, where both sides can participate in a meaningful debate without hating each other.”
But after the votes for Trump and Pence, Scherer said to the electors from her seat, “You voted for a fascist!” to which another audience member replied, “President. He’s our president!”
As Scherer began shouting, “He has a Nazi …” Secretary of State Mark Martin declared that anyone else who spoke out would be removed from the room. When someone else said, “You voted for a homophobe,” she was removed.
The other electors were Jonelle Fulmer of Fort Smith, Tommy Land of Heber Springs, and Sharon Wright of Hope.