One More Round of Voting, as Electors Do Their Duty
By MICHAEL FALCONE
December 16, 2008
WASHINGTON — In state capitals across the country, a select group of Americans who make up the Electoral College met on Monday to cement President-elect Barack Obama’s victory, in a year when new figures showed that voter turnout reached its highest level since 1968.
In a quadrennial ritual that has been criticized by some as an outdated part of the American political system, 538 electors, chosen for their party loyalty, cast their votes on Monday. Mr. Obama was expected to receive 365 votes to 173 for Senator John McCain, his Republican challenger, although the tally will not be made official by Congress until January.
This year’s vote included an Electoral College oddity: Nebraska split its votes for the first time as Mr. Obama became the first Democrat since 1964 to pick up one of its electoral votes, having won the Second Congressional District, which includes Omaha. While most states apportion their votes in a winner-take-all system, Nebraska and Maine award them on different formulas.
In terms of voter turnout, with all 50 states and the District of Columbia now reporting official or certified ballots, 61.6 percent of Americans eligible to vote went to the polls this year, the highest since Richard M. Nixon beat Hubert H. Humphrey in the close 1968 race.
Despite much talk of voter apathy in recent years, turnout has been on the rise. In 2000, 54.2 percent of those eligible to vote did so, while 60.1 percent voted in 2004.
The Electoral College voting, while lacking drama, included some elaborate ceremonies, like the one at the Statehouse in Albany, where the meeting opened with a marching color guard and included a musical performance. Others, like the one in Hawaii, where Mr. Obama was born, had little pomp and circumstance.
But that did not stop Amy Agbayani, one of Hawaii’s four Democratic electors, from inviting more than a dozen friends to the Capitol in Honolulu to watch her sign the forms that helped seal Mr. Obama’s victory.
“It may be pro forma,” said Ms. Agbayani, an administrator at the University of Hawaii, “but I’m very excited to be a part of history.”
Electors are not legally bound to vote for the candidate to whom they are pledged, but they generally do. The votes they cast Monday will be sent to Washington and counted in early January at a joint session of Congress.
Megan Thee-Brenan contributed reporting.
Electoral college elects Obama
Monday, December 15, 2008 | 5:53 PM
Presidential electors are gathering in state capitals across the country to cast the votes that will formally elect Barack Obama as president. RICHMOND, Va. -- As 13 electors cast ballots Monday for the nation's first black president in the Confederacy's old Capitol, Henry Marsh emotionally recalled the smartest man he ever knew -- a waiter, who couldn't get a better job because of his race.
"He waited tables for 30 years, six days a week, 12 hours a day, from 12 noon to 12 midnight, and he supported his family," Marsh, 75, a civil rights lawyer and state senator, said of his father as he fought back tears. "He suffered a lot. He went through a lot."
In all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the 538 electors performed a constitutional process to legally elect Democrat Barack Obama the 44th president.
More than 131 million voters cast ballots -- the most ever in a presidential election. But Obama's election is not complete until Congress tallies the outcome of Monday's Electoral College vote at a joint session scheduled for Jan. 6.
Monday's voting was largely ceremonial, the results preordained by Obama's Nov. 4 victory over Republican Sen. John McCain. Obama won 365 electoral votes, to 173 for McCain. With every state reporting, all the electors had cast ballots in accordance with the popular votes in their states.
In many states, the formal, staid proceeding was touched with poignance, particularly among people old enough to recall a time when voting alone posed the risk of violence for black Americans.
The contrast at Virginia's Capitol, where the Confederate Congress met, was particularly striking.
Gov. Timothy M. Kaine noted in his speech that the 200-year-old Capitol was where lawmakers just 50 years ago orchestrated the state's formal defiance of federal school desegregation orders. But he also noted that it is where L. Douglas Wilder took his oath as the nation's first elected black governor in 1990.
"This temple of Democracy shines very brightly today," Kaine told a standing-room-only crowd attending what had always been a sparsely attended afterthought.
In Florida, state Sen. Frederica Wilson, 66, never thought she would see a black man elected president.
"White water fountains, colored water fountains. You couldn't sit at the lunch counter, go to the bank or get a hamburger," Wilson said after signing a document certifying that Obama got all 27 of her state's electors.
"The pain will always be there, but I think there's a realization that people have evolved," she said.
In North Carolina, 61-year-old Janice Cole said Monday's event was a joyous marker for black people to put old Dixie's trouble past behind them.
"Sen. Obama reminds us that only in America could this story be possible," Cole said.
As a pro football legend, Franco Harris signs his autograph countless thousands of times. But the signature he made as one of 21 Pennsylvania electors for Obama was the one the Pittsburgh Steelers great running back won't ever forget.
"That was special," the Pro Football Hall of Famer said. "This was the most valuable thing I've ever signed my name to." In Augusta, Maine, the moment was freighted with emotion for Jill Duson, the first black mayor of Portland and chairwoman of Maine's four electors.
"Every time I think of it, I get a little misty eyed," Duson said. "I am undone by the election of Barack Obama and what it says to me as a black American, and his victory in the whitest state."
Sedrick Rawlins, a retired 81-year-old dentist from Manchester, Conn., traveled to Selma, Ala., in 1965 to help the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., with the bloody march to Montgomery. The night Obama won the election, he said, he wept with joy. On Monday, he couldn't stop smiling.
"The election is one thing, but it's really official when they seal those ballots with wax and send them off," Rawlins said.
Colorado elector Wellington Webb, Denver's first and only black mayor, said the chance to cast an electoral vote for the first black president was the honor of a lifetime, one that would have made King proud.
"He would find the dream fulfilled," Webb said.
Court won't review Obama's eligibility to serve
By Tim Jones | Tribune correspondent
10:16 AM EST, December 8, 2008
From the Chicago Tribune
MORE ON BARACK OBAMA
UPDATE: The Supreme Court has turned down an emergency appeal from a New Jersey man who says President-elect Barack Obama is ineligible to be president because he was a British subject at birth.
The court did not comment on its order Monday rejecting the call by Leo Donofrio of East Brunswick, N.J., to intervene in the presidential election. Donofrio says that since Obama had dual nationality at birth -- his mother was American and his Kenyan father at the time was a British subject -- he cannot possibly be a "natural born citizen," one of the requirements the Constitution lists for eligibility to be president.
Donofrio also contends that two other candidates, Republican John McCain and Socialist Workers candidate Roger Calero, also are not natural-born citizens and thus ineligible to be president.
At least one other appeal over Obama's citizenship remains at the court. Philip J. Berg of Lafayette Hill, Pa., argues that Obama was born in Kenya, not Hawaii as Obama says and the Hawaii secretary of state has confirmed. Berg says Obama also may be a citizen of Indonesia, where he lived as a boy. Federal courts in Pennsylvania have dismissed Berg's lawsuit.