CLEVELAND, OHIO — On Tuesday night, the Republican National Convention blasted the opening bars of Sinatra’s “New York, New York” and fireworks flashed across the arena’s jumbotron as Donald Trump officially became the Republican Party’s presidential nominee. But the moment that should have signified party unity was broken by shouts of dissent and demands for a recount as multiple delegations had their votes changed against their will.
In the delegation from Washington, D.C., ten were assigned to support Rubio and nine to Kasich, based on how D.C. Republicans voted in the primary. But, relying on arcane party rules, the RNC overruled them, and assigned all 19 votes to Trump.
Minutes after the vote, first-time D.C. delegate Kris Hammond told ThinkProgress he felt insulted and excluded by his party and its nominee.
“How is [Trump] going to listen to us if he’s elected president, if he’s not listening to us now?” he fumed. “He’s not allowing dissent. He’s not going to allow anything other than subservience to Donald Trump.”
Though D.C.’s Republican Party does have a rule allowing for such a vote change at the National Convention, Hammond and other delegates said party leaders promised them they could vote for Kasich and Rubio.
“I am not surprised,” Hammond said of the surprise switch. “It has reinforced my previous conception that you cannot trust this party to do the honorable thing and act in a responsible manner.”
“We were told all along that this is not the way the rules would be interpreted,” D.C. delegate Chip Nottingham added. “To just be insulted like that is outrageous. It’s petty. The [Trump] campaign didn’t need our 19 votes. They didn’t ask for our 19 votes. They never earned them.”
He’s not going to allow anything other than subservience to Donald Trump
Three states also had their votes changed to back Trump against the will of the delegates, using provisions in the party rules of those states. But some, including Alaska, rose up in protest, demanding a recount.
“I was very unhappy when they announced our vote,” Cruz delegate Larry DeVilbiss from Palmer, Alaska told ThinkProgress. “Back in our state it looks tacky because we had a preferential poll, and we had our delegation proportionate to all those votes. I’m upset. I know [voters will] be upset.”
Another Alaska delegate, Glenn Clary, asked if the party will also overrule his state in November. “Is Alaska going to vote and then the RNC is going to change those votes?” he asked. “We don’t know. We’ll see.”
After an extended musical interlude, RNC chairman Reince Priebus overruled them, and the nomination of Trump proceeded.
But some delegates refused to go down quietly. Hammond, a civil rights attorney, said he is considering resigning from the local Republican Party Committee and casting a protest vote for Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson. He told ThinkProgress that he wants his fellow DC Republicans to join him.
“This is Donald Trump and the Republican Party giving the District of Columbia a big middle finger,” he said. “Why would I pledge loyalty to someone who did not respect me? I think if Gary Johnson can defeat Donald Trump in the District of Columbia, that will be a slap in the face. He will find out that he cannot disrespect DC voters.”
Delegates also noted that the Republican Party insulted Washington, D.C. in its party platform. The document backs stripping D.C. of the little sovereignty it has, and calls for more federal control over its budget and laws. As justification, they cited the “unacceptable spike in violent crime and murders currently afflicting the city.” DC delegates noted that no other city with violent crime was singled out in a similar way by the GOP.
Nottingham, a platform committee member, said he felt “not good” about the document.
“I voted against it every step of the way,” he said. “We would prefer that the national party not micromanage us. It’s unnecessary.”
As some top Republican strategists are warning, Hammond said he fears the Republican Party will damage itself in the long term by supporting Trump in the short term. He compared attending the GOP convention to “trying to talk an old friend out of committing suicide.”
“In the end,” he sighed, “it’s up to them.”
Kira Lerner contributed reporting.