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Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Florida's 29 electoral votes go to Donald Trump as state GOP holds out hope for a second term

Posted By on Tue, Dec 15, 2020 at 11:10 AM

click to enlarge Florida Sen. Joe Gruters, chair of the Republican Party of Florida - PHOTO VIA NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
  • Photo via News Service of Florida
  • Florida Sen. Joe Gruters, chair of the Republican Party of Florida

Florida’s Electoral College voters Monday cast their 29 ballots for President Donald Trump with hopes the Republican incumbent can still find a way to overturn election results in other states.

State Sen. Joe Gruters, a Sarasota Republican who is chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, said he’ll support the president “until we exhaust all options to make sure that every legal vote counts.”

“I think there are still options available for the president,” Gruters told reporters before casting his ballot. “We've been encouraging him here in Florida to do everything you possibly can to make sure that all legal and valid votes are counted. And at the end of the day, I think, hopefully, the president will win a second term. But if not, we'll move on.”

The Florida electors gathered on the same day that electors held similar meetings across the country and were expected to give Democrat Joe Biden more than the 270 electoral votes he needed to defeat Trump and move into the White House next month.

Biden was lined up to receive 306 votes to 232 for Trump, whose campaign has lost dozens of legal challenges to the voting process and election results. Trump won Florida’s 29 electoral votes by beating Biden by more than three percentage points in the state on Nov. 3.

Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, acknowledged if Trump isn’t successful in reversing the outcome of the national election, Monday’s action by the Florida electors will be “a bit anticlimactic.”

“I can't speak to other states, but in Florida, the president tripled his margin from four years ago,” Fine said. “Clearly, people in Florida are happy with the job that he did. And they're clearly happy with the Republican method of governance.”

Florida’s electors weren’t willing to publicly declare Monday’s actions as final, as the electoral votes will go before a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, 2021.

Asked about people who don’t accept the election results, Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, replied, “There will be some closure for some. I'm sure for many others, there is still going to be this desire to continue to press on.”

Brandes wouldn’t say if he considered the contest over with Monday’s vote.

Monday’s event in the Florida Senate chamber was mostly ceremonial. Missing from four years ago were protesters chanting outside the chamber and throughout the Capitol grounds. 

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, few visitors were allowed into the Capitol, other than the news media and people tied to the event.

Nobody was seated in the Senate gallery. And with Secretary of State Laurel Lee presiding, electors were required to wear face masks, with a couple donning masks declaring “Trump.” Electors were allowed to take off their masks when they signed the ballots for Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

One last-minute change to Monday’s schedule was the approval of Brandes to replace Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, as an elector. That came after Simpson tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday.

Brandes said he talked to Simpson on Monday and “he's in good spirits.”

“He thought he had the flu and got tested,” Brandes said.

All the electors had to be tested before Monday’s event.

The electors, made up of party stalwarts and elected officials, came from a list submitted by the Republican Party of Florida because Trump won the state.

DeSantis attended the vote, with the group of electors also including Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez, Attorney General Ashley Moody, House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, Sen. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, and Sen. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero.

Moody drew headlines last week when she joined 16 Republican attorneys general in backing an unsuccessful Texas lawsuit that sought to reverse the results of the election in four swing states that went for Biden.

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