PERU, Ind. – Ethan Manning has become a popular guy in some circles since Donald Trump won the presidential bid in November.
Over the last six weeks, Manning, the Miami County, Indiana Republican Chairman, said more than 76,000 emails have flooded his inbox, and he's received more than 200 letters.
Why all the attention?
Manning is one of Indiana’s 11 presidential electors voting in the Electoral College, which will officially determine who is the next President of the United States on Monday.
With the vote looming, Manning said anti-Trump groups from around the country have been begging him to buck his political party and not vote for arguably the most unconventional and contentious presidential winner in history.
“In any normal election year, you don’t think twice about the Electoral College, but given the visceral response to Donald Trump’s victory, that led to people trying any way they can to stop him from becoming president,” he said.
Presidential candidates must win a least 270 electoral votes to be declared the victor. Trump breezed past that number by picking up 306 electors, although he ended up losing the popular vote by more than 2 million.
Now, activist groups are making a last-ditch effort to convince enough electors to vote against Trump to stop him from becoming president.
Which explains the avalanche of emails hitting Manning’s inbox.
“It’s crazy,” he said. “I’m surprised my email hasn’t crashed.”
The 25-year-old Miami County, Indiana native said all the emails – most of which were sent from people outside of Indiana – have asked him to do one of three things: vote for someone other than Trump, vote for Democrat Hillary Clinton or just abstain from voting all together.
Manning would have the right to do any of those things. Indiana law doesn't require electors to cast a ballot for the winner. But doing so would make him a “faithless elector” – someone who violates their pledge to vote for their party’s winner.
That’s something that’s never happened in Indiana, and Manning has no intention of being the first one.
That isn’t to say he’s a die-hard Trump supporter. Manning said he publicly expressed concerns about the New York real-estate mogul during the primary election.
“I was never a ‘never-Trump’ person,” he said. “I was a ‘never-Hillary’ person all along.”
But regardless of his viewpoints, Manning said, his job now as an elector is to uphold the will of Indiana voters, who overwhelmingly cast their ballot for Trump. When the polls closed, he had won just over 57 percent of the vote, while Clinton garnered just under 38 percent.
Manning said that fact makes it easy to respond to all the people asking him to become a “faithless elector” on Monday.
“My response has been Donald Trump won around 57 percent of the vote in Indiana,” Manning said. “In Miami County, he won 73 percent of the vote. It would just be inappropriate to ignore the will of the majority of voters.”
Not all electors feel the same way, though.
Christopher Suprun from Texas publicly declared he will not vote for Trump, despite his state strongly supporting the candidate. In an opinion piece in the New York Times, the elector said he would only vote for a candidate who is “qualified, not engaged in demagogy, and independent from foreign influence.”
“Mr. Trump shows us again and again that he does not meet these standards,” Suprun said. “Given his own public statements, it isn’t clear how the Electoral College can ignore these issues, and so it should reject him.”
Manning said he sympathizes with that philosophy, but it isn’t enough to change his mind – or his vote.
“He won the general election and almost breezed through the primary,” he said. “It’s pretty clear what people are wanting … When you win an election that solves a lot of problems. Like it or not, winning is winning.”
Gerber writes for the Kokomo, Indiana Tribune.