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'Faithless elector' dismissed, Minnesota's 10 votes go to Clinton

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Muhammad Abdurrahman stands next to Sec. of State.
Muhammad Abdurrahman stands next to Secretary of State Steve Simon before he is excused as a Minnesota elector on Monday.
Brian Bakst | MPR News

Update: 3:45 p.m. | Posted: 1:45 p.m.

There were a few things different this year from the normally staid ceremony during which Minnesota's electors cast their votes. 

First, it wasn't at the Capitol. Because of the ongoing renovation, this year it was across the street at the Senate office building. 

And there were the people protesting the Electoral College who spoke up every now and then. They wanted a delay in the vote and they urged electors to vote their conscience.

Still, everything was on script when Secretary of State Steve Simon reached the halfway point in his vote counting.

Minnesota’s 10 Electoral College members
Minnesota's 10 Electoral College members take a pledge to back their party's nominee for president, Hillary Clinton, after she won the most votes in the state in November's election.
Brian Bakst | MPR News

It was then that Simon realized Muhammad Abdurrahman had broken his elector pledge and would be excused.

"This ballot, these ballots for president of the United States and vice president of the United States will not be counted," Simon announced to the audience. 

People who don't vote for the candidate who won a state's popular vote are known as "faithless electors." 

It happened in 2004 in Minnesota when someone voted for John Edwards instead of John Kerry for president. That time it looked like an accident, but Minnesota lawmakers changed state law to provide an instant process for removing electors who go off script. 

After the ceremony Abdurrahman told reporters he voted for Bernie Sanders for president instead of Clinton and Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard for VP.

"I don't agree with the Minnesota statute that makes an elector vacate their position for not voting a certain way," Abdurrahman said.

People protest the Electoral College.
People protesting Donald Trump's election win and the Electoral College stand in the back of the room as the assembly begins.
Brian Bakst | MPR News

He wouldn't say if he would challenge the law on constitutional grounds after being replaced.   His backup voted for Clinton, and the state's 10 votes went for her — just as they have for every Democratic White House candidate since 1976.

Simon said his staff had prepared for the possible hiccup and he had the obligation to enforce the law. Simon, a DFLer, said he had no advance warning.

It was the capstone to an election that has exposed many raw nerves. Dozens of Trump opponents held signs and chanted outside the Capitol complex building where the assembly convened.

Earlier, a group of DFL legislators said they would make another run at changing the Electoral College process. Specifically, they want Minnesota to join a compact that would award the state's electoral votes based on the national popular vote winner.

The bill has been bogged down before and there's no indication the new Republican majorities in the House and Senate will pass it next year.

In fact, House Speaker Kurt Daudt said Monday he prefers a system where the state's electoral votes are allocated based on the election results in congressional districts.

DFL Senator-elect Carolyn Laine, a former House member from Columbia Heights, supports the national popular vote compact and said it's time for a change.

"I consider the Electoral College defunct," Laine said. "It was set up in a different time for reasons that are no longer valid."