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They may think they're voting for Barack Obama and Joe Biden, but that's not correct. Of course, they -- like Americans in the other 49 states and the District of Columbia -- will actually be voting to determine which slate of individuals will represent their state in the Electoral College. On December 17, those Electors will gather in state capitals to cast the 538 actual votes for President and Vice President.

It's possible that I, N in Seattle, will be one of those 538 voters.  

Even if I don't get to sign my name to the official Certificate of Ascertainment (don't worry, I'd use my real name!), I will definitely be right there, participating in the ceremony. And I will write about the experience, both here on dKos and on the leading Washington state political blog, HorsesAss.org.

I am a Democratic Alternate Elector for Washington, chosen by my fellow delegates at last Sunday's Seventh Congressional District Caucus.

If you're interested in how that came to pass, come on down below the squiggle. I'll also talk at some length about the selection of national convention delegates.

Before voting for Elector, delegates to Washington's 10 Congressional District Democratic caucuses elected 69 Democratic National Convention Delegates. As one of 177 delegates in attendance (chosen earlier by our Legislative District caucuses), it was my job to determine which 12 people would represent WA-07 at the DNC in Charlotte. As by far the bluest district in the state, WA-07 chose many more Delegates than any other CD caucus -- eight of the other nine CDs chose either 6 or 7 Delegates, while blood-red WA-04 merited only 4.

The competition for national convention Delegate positions was fierce. In fact, more than half of the caucus delegates (almost 60 men and 50 women) were on the ballot. After each aspirant gave a one-minute speech, we voted. To combat "gaming" the vote, all ballots were required to display votes for exactly six men and six women. As a result of this procedure, our Congressional District's DNC Delegates are a splendid bunch -- young and old, black and white and Latino and Asian and Arab, gay and straight, teacher and student, union member and entrepreneur.

WA-07 DNC Delegates 2012[h/t artistdogboy's Twitter feed]

Following the DNC voting, the caucus voted for its Elector. As mentioned earlier, each CD caucus chose one Elector, and then the state convention (about 10 days from now) would elect the Democrats' two "at-large" Electors.

There were several important procedural differences between national convention Delegate voting and Electoral College voting:

  • While candidates for DNC delegate had to declare their intentions well in advance of the caucus, Elector candidates self-identified at the caucus.
  • Caucus delegates could vote for one and only one Elector, rather than the N of each gender (where N was 6 of each in WA-07) in the balloting for national delegate.
  • Delegate voting was by plurality while the Elector voting required a majority. The Delegate procedure is a change from previous years, and was the topic of some minor controversy. Apparently, the national party changed it from majority to plurality in this cycle, but the WA Dems hadn't made the revision in their plan. National rules supercede state rules, so we went with plurality voting. (To everyone's relief, as it made for a far shorter meeting.)
  • If no one garnered a majority of the votes for Elector, there would be a second ballot pitting the top two candidates against each other.
  • If the top pair were of opposite genders, the Round 2 loser would automatically be named the Alternate Elector (the selection plan says the two must be of opposite genders). If the Round 2 participants were of the same gender, the loser of that vote would get nothing, and the highest-ranked candidate of the opposite gender would become the Alternate.
It turns out that the Delegate vote ended up with a tie for sixth place among the men. The procedure for breaking the tie is "by lot", in this case meaning a coin flip. Calling "Heads" won a ticket to Charlotte for the tallest guy in the above photo, a high school senior who hasn't yet turned 18.

Unlike the majority of my fellow CD delegates, I never had any interest in running for national Delegate. On the other hand, in the days leading up to the caucus I went back and forth with myself regarding a run for Elector. I've long been interested in process, and that perfectly describes the Electoral College. I thought I had what might be a unique and appealing "campaign plank" -- I would blog about the Electoral College experience, from the viewpoint of a participant rather than an observer. So, in the end, I threw my hat in the ring.

When the time for selecting the Elector arrived, about 20 people were in the running. We were more men than women, but not by much. I think more than a few of the others decided to run for Elector on the spur of the moment, perhaps because they hadn't won a national Delegate position (one could do both, and at least one Delegate tried it). Only a relatively small number, myself among them, had been politicking for Elector during the somewhat lengthy Delegate speechifying and voting.

The candidate pool covered a broad spectrum of backgrounds. At least two or three were former state legislators, one had been the state party chair many years ago, and others had been campaign managers, legislative assistants, and the like. Nearly all devoted their one-minute speeches to recounting their Democratic bona fides, giving a shout-out to the Legislative District they represented, stating a list of the policy issues that they were especially concerned with, and explaining how they intended to do something about those concerns. At least one candidate said he would work toward a Constitutional amendment abolishing the Electoral College (not my idea of a positive message when you're trying to take that very role).

I did none of that. We weren't running for an issues-, policy-, activism-based position, and our views on those topics were irrelevant to the purely-ceremonial (but Constitutionally-mandated) role we sought. My fellow candidates were still making convention-Delegate speeches, it seemed.  Oh, I would have gone into my bona fides if I'd had the time -- 60 seconds fly by really fast when they're your 60 seconds. So I couldn't irrelevantly endear myself to the delegates by recounting that: a) I may be the only person in the country who voted for Mo Udall twice in 1976, b) my grandparents were Kerensky backers against Lenin, c) the first political slogan I remember is "I Like Ike" ... but my parents didn't, so neither did I, and d) I would have gone Clean for Gene if I'd had a beard in 1968.

What I did instead was to refresh everyone's memory of what the Electoral College is and does, even down to knowing that it meets on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December (12/17 this year). The Electoral College remains a mysterious, anachronistic procedure to nearly all Americans, and I pledged to open the window on it by blogging all about it. No one else stated the intention to do anything of the sort.  It probably helped as well that I was the very first candidate to make my pitch.

As far as I know, nobody has ever blogged about the Electoral College from the inside, from the viewpoint of a participant. The closest I could find in a dKos diary is My son voted for Barack Obama today, which gives no information whatsoever about the ceremony itself; the diarist doesn't even mention his/her son's state. Two other 2008 diaries reflect what public observers saw of the Electoral College ceremonies in Vermont and Maine.

As you've long since figured out, I was one of the two highest vote-getters at the WA-07 caucus. "Astonished" doesn't really come close to my reaction upon hearing my name called. The other finalist was a woman, so we didn't have to concern ourselves with the loser-gets-nothing scenario. One of us would be the Elector, the other would be the Alternate Elector.

In the end, she received more votes than I did on the second ballot. So unless something untoward happens to her (I promised not to let the air out of her tires), I won't have the opportunity to affix my signature to Washington's Certificate of Ascertainment. But I will most definitely be on hand to participate as much as it is possible for an Alternate to do.

That is, if more Washington voters cast ballots for the potential Electors supporting Obama/Biden than for the Elector-candidates backing Romney/Whoever.

Originally posted to Peace Tree Farm on Wed May 23, 2012 at 03:16 PM PDT.

Also republished by PacNW Kossacks and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (39+ / 0-)

    Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. -- K.Marx A.Lincoln

    by N in Seattle on Wed May 23, 2012 at 03:16:44 PM PDT

  •  Very nice, N in Seattle! Very nice. (13+ / 0-)

    Look forward to reading more about this as the process continues.

    And, BTW, congratulations from Ballard.

  •  Absolutely cool, N (9+ / 0-)

    I hope we hear a LOT about this from you.

    -7.75, -8.10; All it takes is security in your own civil rights to make you complacent.

    by Dave in Northridge on Wed May 23, 2012 at 03:29:17 PM PDT

  •  grok the elector-ku! (5+ / 0-)

    keep us posted!

    you don't need to read my comments. this is not the sigline you're looking for. Move along.

    by bubbanomics on Wed May 23, 2012 at 03:55:05 PM PDT

  •  I was there, too, and what gave me joy was (8+ / 0-)

    watching ordinary Washingtonians get to vote for and select electors rather than watching insiders and club officers scam all of that off to themselves, both as to national delegates and as to the elector allotted to our congressional district. I didn't win, but just being there and a part of it was something that the Washington farmers and fishermen who produced me would have been proud of in their time, when it would have been flat out impossible. Something not possible in a lot of states at all, certainly not in NYC where I cut my political teeth for twenty years plus.  As with N in Seattle's forbears and some of the winner's ancestors. (The Seventh considered, and happily  elected, a lotta folk whose ancestors, ahem,  didn't get there on wagon trains).

    What was dismaying was that there were fewer people there to participate than there should have been all along the process. In some of the earlier steps in the process, everyone who wanted to be a delegate to this or that intermediate step got to be one because in many cases not enough people from various precincts and such showed up to fill slates at all, much less alternate spots.  An open door does not matter if you don't show up to go through it.

     I am concerned that a lot of Dems are going to take this election for granted, which has the possibility of 2010 lurking in that choice. Republicans here think they are on a roll.  My part of the 7th was added following the census and had previously been part of Adam Smith's district, so I didn't expect much because the parts long there in the 7th were focused on their existing relative relationships among themselves in what was once the core of the district but now is only the northern part of it, and one they ignore at their peril, but the problem still is that we as Dems generally seem to be assuming things that we should not, and are putting our most precious goals at risk to assume it.

    This means alla you readers, like N and me, have to get out to really, really work this election, do things we don't think we can do, and get it done.

    •  33rd LD? (5+ / 0-)

      From your description, it sounds like that's where you live.  Welcome to bluer-than-blue WA-07!

      I completely agree about the opportunity for regular people to participate at the highest level.  Out of the 14 people we chose -- 12 delegates, Elector, Alternate -- the only "insider" we chose was Javier Valdez (leftmost in the photo).  He's the state committeeman from WA-07, and presided over the caucus.  And the nicest, most genuine person you'd ever want to meet.  I asked him for his endorsement for Elector.  He said he would, if my speech included the statement that the 1986 Mets were the greatest baseball team in history.  I refused, but he endorsed me anyway.  :-)

      Even at the state convention, while more muckety-mucks get themselves elected as at-large DNC delegates, the little guys still earn a good many of the slots.  It'll be interesting to see who wins as the at-large Electors.

      Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. -- K.Marx A.Lincoln

      by N in Seattle on Wed May 23, 2012 at 04:51:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  oh, forgot to ask (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        doingbusinessas, Larsstephens

        Did my campaign promise to blog the Electoral College resonate with you?  You don't have to tell me who you voted for (either time) ... I just want to know whether my approach stood out in a positive way.

        I know my friends in the 43rd (and some in the 36th and 46th) were likely to vote for me because they're friends, but not whether anyone outside my orbit went my way.

        PS.  One of my friends, Kossack Robespierrette, told me she had to leave before the Elector vote, to pick up her 10-year-old.  But then, surprisingly, she came back to the caucus with her daughter, and voted for me!

        Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. -- K.Marx A.Lincoln

        by N in Seattle on Wed May 23, 2012 at 04:57:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The problem with blogging the EC is that there (0+ / 0-)

          is no remedy if, say, the Wisconsin electors are individuals voting because they were elected by  state legislators to vote a certain way, notwithstanding the public vote, as with the USSC ruling in 2000. They would have done it either way, but such an occurrence would rub into the faces of all the pointlessness in the face of mania even to bother to vote in some places. Unlike some other folk, I really think some of those all R states might actually try this.

      •  More insiders than you realize (0+ / 0-)

        Also elected from the 7th:
        Marcee Stone:  State Committee Woman - 36th LD
        Ann Martin: SCW King County
        Chris Porter: SCM 34th LD

  •  Very cool, N. nt (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MKSinSA, Larsstephens, linkage

    Just Win, Baby. -- Al Rodgers, Feb. 24, 2012

    by OLinda on Wed May 23, 2012 at 04:27:49 PM PDT

  •  And then I could say (3+ / 0-)

    I happen to know a member of the Electoral College!!

    And I knew him when we both were Seattle Deaniacs - me a political baby and him a seasoned political expert. Since then I've been around a LOT, so no longer a baby.

    Congrats Neal - Well done! I see a couple delegates from my own West Seattle!

  •  Now just tell us what to do to make sure (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SuetheRedWA

    that we don't elect a Republican as State Attorney General!

  •  Not the first account (0+ / 0-)

    I have a book at home, by John Michener, about the Electoral College. He was an Elector, from memory in Pennsylvania in 1968. Michener did explain his experience of the process, as well as exploring Electoral College history and various proposals to amend the constitution.

    Senator Birxh Bayh had a quite interesting proposal to replace the individual electors with a proportionate allocation of electoral votes based on the popular vote in a state. As the allocation would have been done to about five decimal places, it would have produced something half way between the existing allocation of whole electoral votes and a national popular vote election.

    There is no man alive who is sufficiently good to rule the life of the man next door to him. Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris, M.P.

    by Gary J on Thu May 24, 2012 at 05:28:22 AM PDT

  •  Birch not Birxh (0+ / 0-)

    Evan Bayh's father.

    There is no man alive who is sufficiently good to rule the life of the man next door to him. Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris, M.P.

    by Gary J on Thu May 24, 2012 at 05:29:22 AM PDT

  •  Very cool, N (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    N in Seattle

    it'll be fun to have an inside view of this. And I know no one more deserving. Hope you get to be an official elector. (Not that I will ill on any of the others, but you know.)

    "There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning." —Warren Buffett

    by Joan McCarter on Thu May 24, 2012 at 08:32:31 AM PDT

  •  I voted for you on that 2nd ballot (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    N in Seattle

    It's a pretty cool experience to get a chance to vote for one of the actual constitutionally-designed electors. It makes this obscure scheme real to see a human face put to the position.

    I'm really proud of the 5 members of the 34th that will be going to NC. The kickin' 34th rules!

  •  Now I know somebody (0+ / 0-)

    Normally I have to say that I know somebody who knows somebody...

    But in this case I met N in Seattle at a SeattleKos meet up, circa 2007-8-ish.  I've since moved onto Iowa, but it was fun meeting some of the Seattle Kossacks down at the Elysian near Safeco Field.

    Good luck, N in Seattle.  I know you'll represent the state and our nation, well.

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