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Trump off to a strong start in Electoral College

WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump started racking up electoral votes Monday even as anti-Trump protesters across the country tried to persuade the Electoral College to prevent him from winning the White House.

With about half the states reporting, neither Trump nor Democrat Hillary Clinton had lost any electors.

Trump had 154 votes and Clinton had 86. It takes 270 votes in the Electoral College to win the presidency. Electors were voting throughout the day and there was scant evidence many GOP electors would peel away from their Election Day winner. More than three dozen would have to abandon him to complicate his path to the presidency.

More than 200 demonstrators braved freezing temperatures at Pennsylvania's capitol, chanting, "No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA!" and "No treason, no Trump!"

Protesters also gathered in Colorado, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, Texas, Nebraska and other states.

The protesters, however, were unlikely to persuade the Electoral College to dump Trump. An Associated Press survey of electors found very little appetite to vote for alternative candidates. Only one Republican said he would vote for someone else.

Republican electors have been deluged with emails, phone calls and letters urging them not to support Trump. Many of the emails are part of coordinated campaigns.

"The letters are actually quite sad," said Lee Green, a Republican elector from North Carolina. "They are generally freaked out. They honestly believe the propaganda. They believe our nation is being taken over by a dark and malevolent force."

Wirt A. Yerger Jr., a Republican elector in Mississippi, said, "I have gotten several thousand emails asking me not to vote for Trump. I threw them all away."

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 — almost certainly Trump — 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.

The AP tried to reach all of the electors and interviewed more than 330 of them, finding widespread aggravation among Democrats with the electoral process, but little expectation Trump would be derailed.

Some Democrats have argued that the Electoral College is undemocratic because it gives more weight to less populated states. That is how Clinton, who got more than 2.6 million more votes nationwide, lost the election to Trump. Some have also tried to dissuade Trump voters by arguing that he is unsuited to the job. Others cite the CIA's assessment that Russia engaged in computer hacking to sway the election in favor of the Republican.

"When the founders of our country created (the Electoral College) 200-plus years ago, they didn't have confidence in the average white man who had property, because that's who got to vote," said Shawn Terris, a Democratic elector from Ventura, California. "It just seems so undemocratic to me that people other than the voters get to choose who leads the country."

There is no constitutional provision or federal law that requires electors to vote for the candidate who won their state. Some states require their electors to vote for the winning candidate, either by law or through signed pledges. But no elector has ever been prosecuted for failing to vote as pledged, according to the National Archives.

Those laws are rarely tested. More than 99 percent of electors through U.S. history have voted for the candidate who won their state.

Electors are selected by state parties, and so are often insiders who can be trusted to vote for the party's candidate. Many Republican electors said they feel duty-bound to honor their pledge to vote for the candidate who won their state, regardless of how they feel about Trump.

Still, some anti-Trump activists have been getting creative in trying to persuade electors to dump Trump.

In addition to thousands of emails, Republican elector Charlie Buckels of Louisiana said he received a FedEx package with a 50-page document that the sender said "had absolute proof that the Russians hacked the elections."

"From the tenor of these emails, you would think these people are curled up in a corner in a fetal position with a thumb in their mouth," Buckels said.

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Associated Press writers Marc Levy in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Meg Kinnard in Columbia, South Carolina, Hope Yen in Washington, Emily Wagster Pettus in Jackson, Mississippi, Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Juliet A. Williams in Sacramento, California contributed to this report.

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Online:

AP interactive on election results: http://interactives.ap.org/2016/road-to-270/

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Follow Stephen Ohlemacher on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/stephenatap

| Dec. 19, 2016 2:01 PM EST

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