WASHINGTON - Members of America's Electoral College convened across the country Monday to formally anoint Donald Trump as president, with opponents clinging to slim hopes of a revolt that could deny him power.

Normally, this step in a US presidential election is a rubber stamp formality by an obscure institution, and it tends to go unnoticed - but not this time. The Republican Trump's stunning upset win over Democrat Hillary Clinton has left the country bitterly divided. Plus, there's the uproar over allegations of Russian hacking of Democrats during the campaign to sway the vote in favor of Trump. So for once, people are paying close attention to the Electoral College vote.

When US voters cast their ballots on November 8, they did not directly elect the next president but rather 538 electors charged with translating their wishes into reality.  Trump won a clear majority of those electors - 306, with 270 needed for election - despite losing the popular vote to Clinton by nearly three million votes.

On Monday the electors - most of whom are party members without name recognition - gathered in each state plus the District of Columbia to officially designate the next president and vice president. In most states, electors must vote for whichever candidate won the popular tally in their state. To prevent Trump from becoming president, Democratic activists would need to convince at least 37 Republican electors to abandon their candidate. One Texas Republican elector, Christopher Suprun, has publicly said that he will not vote for Trump, arguing he is unqualified to be president, among other reasons because his vast overseas holdings as a businessman create a conflict of interest.

Suprun told MSNBC Monday that he had reached out to other electors to try to persuade them to join him. He said it's all a matter of principle. Besides the financial holdings issue, Suprun said, "he seems to be a demagogue with the way he divides us, and he's in my opinion not appropriate to secure our national security against foreign governments."

An online petition calling on electors to reject Trump has collected some five million supporters. Hollywood stars including Martin Sheen recently released a video to goad electors to dump Trump.

There is so far no evidence that enough Republican electors will dump Trump.

And even if Trump were to lose the Electoral College vote it would be up to the House of Representatives - controlled by Republicans - to designate the successor to President Barack Obama.

The final vote result is not expected to be known on Monday, as states are given several days to report their numbers. Congress will announce the name of the winner on January 6, two weeks before the next president is to be inaugurated.

Russia's alleged cyber hack that many Democrats believe gravely wounded Clinton has added an extra layer of drama to the Electoral College vote.

Ten electors - nine Democrats and one Republican - wrote an open letter to National Intelligence Director James Clapper seeking an intelligence briefing on the matter ahead of their vote.

They heard back from him and the answer was no, said Democratic elector Clay Pell of Rhode Island, one of those who signed the letter.

So, the Rhode Island electors on Monday will appeal to Congress for a probe of the hack "to make sure that the American people have the full information about this unprecedented foreign intervention into our election."

The incoming White House chief of staff, Reince Preibus, told Fox News Sunday that the pressure on the Electoral College not to elect Trump is "about Democrats that can't accept the outcome of the election. It's about delegitimizing the American system."

Trump himself weighed in via Twitter. "If my many supporters acted and threatened people like those who lost the election are doing, they would be scorned & called terrible names!" he wrote.

Far from all Democrats support trying to get Republican electors to reject Trump. "Though I share deep concerns about election & @realDonaldTrump," former senior Obama aide David Axelrod wrote on Twitter, "most electors will follow states & should. Reversal would rip country apart."