First meeting of electors

At 11 a.m. today, I’ll attend the first meeting of the Minnesota electors (the main Electoral College ceremony being tomorrow at noon). I’ll be updating live on Twitter; follow me there.

The notice for today reads:

Pursuant to Minnesota Statutes Chapter 208, on Sunday, December 14, 2008, at 11 a.m., a meeting will be convened of the presidential electors and alternate presidential electors. The meeting will take place in the Governor’s Reception Room at the State Capitol, Room 130, 75 Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, Minnesota. At that time, the Governor or his agent will deliver to the electors present a certificate of the names of all the electors. The above meeting is prescribed by statute. It is not the meeting at which the electors vote or which vacancies are declared or filled. The electors and alternates need not appear at this meeting in order to participate in the meetings on Monday, December 15, 2008.

The Capitol isn’t very far from here, but the forecast is “Rain and freezing rain early will changeover to snow for the afternoon.” So I should get moving!

I’ll post more later. Meanwhile, you can follow me on Twitter.

[UPDATED 11/30/16 for new Twitter handle]

NE Republicans push for winner-take-all

With Barack Obama claiming the electoral vote for Nebraska’s 2nd District, Republicans in the state are moving for a switch to winner-take-all:

David Kramer with the Republican Party says it has nothing to do with the increased number of registered democrats. “I think it’s a question of fairness.” Kramer says the system only works for the democrats. Kramer says, “If it’s good for us here than it ought to be good for us in California, in New York and those places where democrats would fight tooth and nail to make sure this kind of proposal never ever got passed.”

(Yes, I know it should be “Democrats,” not “democrats.” I’m just the messenger.)

As covered before, Nebraska and Maine are unusual in how they allocate electoral votes. In the case of Nebraska, two of its five EVs go to the statewide winner, with the other three awarded by congressional district. Obama’s victory in the 2nd District is the first time in the modern era that a split has actually occurred.

Minnesota electors 2008

Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor electors:
10 for Barack Obama and Joe Biden


  • Arthur Anderson, Albert Lea
  • Bill Davis, Brooklyn Park
  • Jim Gremmels, Glenwood
  • Benjamin Gross, Eagan
  • Dave Lee, Minneapolis
  • Matthew Little, Minneapolis
  • Al Patton, Sartell
  • Jackie Stevenson, Minnetonka
  • Joan Wittman, St. Paul
  • Donyta Wright, Biwabik

Alternate electors:

  • Kristen Denzer, Minneapolis
  • Rod Halvorson, St. Paul
  • Carol Just, St. Louis Park
  • Susan Moravec, Shakopee
  • Mari Pokornowski, Cokato
  • Faith Rud, Warren
  • Katherine Speer, Elgin
  • Karen Strike, Isanti
  • Russell Warren, Mounds View

Fun facts after the jump.

Read more

Colorado electors 2008

Former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, one of the nine Colorado electors, is spotlighted in this piece from the Rocky Mountain News. There’s some nice perspective on how America and Colorado have changed over the decades:

When Wellington Webb steps into the state Capitol on Dec. 15 to cast an official electoral vote for president-elect Barack Obama, a lot will be racing through his mind.

He’ll remember how his wife, Wilma, fought for years to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a holiday in Colorado. He’ll remember how the state legislature, once run by the Ku Klux Klan, is now led by two black lawmakers, Speaker of the House Terrance Carroll and Senate President Peter Groff.

The piece also discusses details of the process in Colorado, including the December 15 Electoral College meeting and the extravagant per diem paid to electors in that state ($5.00 plus 15¢ per mile). Finally, it lists Colorado’s 2008 Democratic electors:

  • Margaret Atencio
  • Camilla Auger
  • Polly Baca
  • Ann Knollman
  • Terry Phillips
  • Pam Shaddock
  • Don Strickland
  • Jennifer Trujillo-Sanchez
  • Wellington Webb

Photo by Thorne Enterprises, found on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Nebraska splits electoral votes

The Omaha World-Herald reports that Barack Obama is the winner of a one-off elector in Nebraska. This is for the district encompassing Omaha and the surrounding region.

I haven’t yet found this Democratic elector’s name, but she or he must be wearing a big smile about now. (The other four Nebraska electors go to John McCain.)

Nebraska and Maine are the only states that award electors by district, as opposed to the customary “winner-take-all” system. 2008 is notable as the first time either state has split its electors. It’s also the first time in over 40 years a Democrat has won an electoral vote from Nebraska, according to the Nebraska Democratic Party.

h/t Ballot Access News,, and Daily Kos (not sure where I read it first)

To the Future

I’m home from the Minnesota DFL victory party at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in St. Paul. I’m quite literally finding it hard to keep my eyes open. But before I go to bed, I need to memorialize the moment.

This election, of course, is about many things. It’s about moving beyond contrived divisions. It’s about a new direction for American foreign policy. It’s about the rejection of a certain lovely brand of attack-dog politics. It’s about a coalition of all races, ages, and backgrounds coming together to put the first African-American in the White House.

From our Electoral College standpoint, what’s interesting about Obama’s victory is not just the large electoral-vote majority he won (at this writing, 364 to 163 with 11 up in the air). It’s the astounding wave of popular participation Barack Obama inspired, and which in turn made this victory possible.

While the Electoral College was necessarily a part of the plan, the Obama campaign was light years beyond the kind of tactical electoral-vote nickel-and-diming with which Democrats had become too comfortable. This campaign was about both deepening and widening the base, tapping into latent Democratic support across all 50 states. It was about realizing that electoral maps are made to be broken. Indeed, that’s exactly what campaigns are for.

Election Day

“The Congress may determine the Time of chusing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.”
—Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution

“Election Day, November, 1884”

If I should need to name, O Western World, your powerfulest scene and show,

‘Twould not be you, Niagara – nor you, ye limitless prairies – nor your huge rifts of canyons, Colorado,

Nor you, Yosemite – nor Yellowstone, with all its spasmic geyserloops ascending to the skies, appearing and disappearing,

Nor Oregon’s white cones – nor Huron’s belt of mighty lakes – nor Mississippi’s stream:

This seething hemisphere’s humanity, as now, I’d name – the still small voice vibrating -America’s choosing day,

(The heart of it not in the chosen – the act itself the main, the quadrennial choosing,)

The stretch of North and South arous’d – sea-board and inland – Texas to Maine – the Prairie States – Vermont, Virginia, California,

The final ballot-shower from East to West – the paradox and conflict,

The countless snow-flakes falling – (a swordless conflict,

Yet more than all Rome’s wars of old, or modern Napoleon’s): the peaceful choice of all,

Or good or ill humanity – welcoming the darker odds, the dross:

– Foams and ferments the wine? it serves to purify – while the heart pants, life glows:

These stormy gusts and winds waft precious ships,

Swell’d Washington’s, Jefferson’s, Lincoln’s sails.

Walt Whitman

(h/t Robert Pinsky at the Boston Globe, via BarbinMD)

Your vote counts!

I just met with WCCO-TV’s Jason DeRusha to answer some questions about the Electoral College. This is scheduled for the “Good Question” segment on the 10 o’clock news tonight.

If that’s where you heard about this blog, welcome! RSS users, subscribe here.

So Judy told me that when you’re done with a TV interview, you always kick yourself for forgetting something you wanted to say. She was right. This is what I wanted to add:

Your vote is criticial in the presidential race, but that’s not the only important race on the ballot. Here in Minnesota, you can help decide the closest U.S. Senate contest in America, several very tight House races, and more. Your vote matters on many levels—so vote!

UPDATE (11/3, 11:51 p.m.):

From, here’s the video. (Sorry, there doesn’t seem to be a way to embed it here.)

Also, reporter Jason DeRusha expands a bit on our conversation on his “DeBlog.”

(Updated again 11/4 with link to a better page for the video.)

More on National Popular Vote

Yesterday I wrote about the National Popular Vote effort, to get states to voluntarily throw their electoral votes to the winner of the overall popular vote (regardless of who wins in each individual state). Several states have already signed up, but it would take effect only when the signatory states have a total of at least 270 electoral votes.

On further reading of the NPV web site, I think the current proposal is seriously flawed.

You see, once a state has decided to participate, the compact allows the legislature and governor of that state to change their minds and drop out of the NPV bloc as long as they do so by July 20 of the election year.

I contend that this would invite partisan abuse, not to mention being dangerously late in the process.

Let’s say NPV is in effect in some future election year. It’s early July, and we’re in a state dominated by Party A. The legislature and governor are of Party A, and Party A’s presidential candidate is a shoo-in in that state. But Party B’s presidential candidate is way ahead in national polls.

As July 20 approaches, the state’s Party A leaders will feel an increasing incentive, maybe even public pressure, to drop out of the compact to prevent the state’s electoral votes from going to Party B’s candidate. If they do drop out, and if that diminishes the total electoral votes of participating states to below 270, the NPV bloc doesn’t just lose this state’s votes. The whole compact is no longer in effect anywhere.

Suddenly, the massive presidential campaign organizations have to retool for a fundamentally different electoral vote paradigm, possibly only 3.5 months before the election. This is fraught with the potential for abuse.

NPV is a valiant attempt to hack the system to switch to a de facto popular vote. But I don’t understand the reasoning behind such an alarmingly late withdrawal deadline.

National Popular Vote Terminated in CA

Of course, the winner of the popular vote doesn’t always win the presidency. Some Americans call that a Feature™, but most think it’s a Bug.

Last month (while I was AFK), California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed S.B. 37, which had proposed a novel workaround to that issue. Under this bill, California would have agreed to throw its electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote across the country—not necessarily the winner in California.

According to an organization called National Popular Vote, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, and New Jersey have already signed up for this. If enough states were to follow suit, we’d effectively elect the president by popular vote.

Rather than quixotically pursuing a constitutional amendment, supporters are advancing this as an interstate compact—basically, a “treaty” between states. It wouldn’t take effect until enacted by states commanding at least 270 electoral votes, thereby guaranteeing an Electoral College majority.

(As implied, the Electoral College would continue to exist, but campaign strategy would no longer be built around winning electoral votes on a state-by-state basis.)

The current signatory states have a total of 50 electoral votes. California would have more than doubled that, so this veto’s gotta hurt.