More than 82,000 people in Loudoun County voted for Barack Obama in 2012. One person voted for him twice.
Fear not, conspiracy theorists—Evan Macbeth didn’t commit election fraud. Macbeth, the chairman of the Loudoun County Democratic Committee, was simply acting in accordance with the U.S. Constitution when he cast his second vote Dec. 17 in Richmond.
From the floor of the House of Delegates chamber in the classical, Thomas Jefferson-designed capital building, Macbeth, with noticeably more emphasis than his 12 fellow presidential electors, declared: “I, Evan D. Macbeth, of the 10th Congressional District of the great Commonwealth of Virginia, proudly cast my electoral vote for Barack Obama of the state of Illinois.”
Minutes later, it was official.
“It is now my honor,” proclaimed Susan Johnston Rowland, president of the electoral college from Virginia, “to report 13 votes have been cast for the Honorable Barack Obama of the state of Illinois for the President of the United States. No other person received a vote.”
A gradual, 40-second standing applause followed Rowland’s declaration.
This, of course, wasn’t a surprise. More than a month ago, by the early hours of morning on Nov. 7 – still election night for all intents and purposes – people throughout the country learned the majority of Virginia’s voters once again chose Obama to be their president.
But as those back-of-the-class dozers from high school government class may not know, and many others of us have forgotten, the general election isn’t over on election day. Voters on that first Tuesday in November are merely casting ballots for the oft-scrutinized electoral college; it’s this collective body that will officially designate the President of the United States.
Representatives from Virginia’s 11 congressional districts, plus two at-large electors, help to compose the 538 presidential electors, or members of the 2012 electoral college – an elector from every congressional district in the country, one for each U.S. senator, and three from the District of Columbia.
As Macbeth put it, the casting of the electoral votes is “where the sausage is made.” While most November voters celebrate or sulk over the outcome the night or week they vote, and then go about their lives, it comes down to the locally-selected electors to make it official.
For Macbeth, there have been few greater honors.
“It’s an absolute dream come true. It’s special for me … I went to the University of Virginia, I’ve studied Thomas Jefferson, I’ve been involved in politics. It’s an honor to cast this vote,” Macbeth, a self-annointed “government geek,” said.
As the temporary presiding officer over the ceremony, the Leesburg Democrat played a central role in the commonwealth’s electoral college ceremony. Using his own gavel, which he received in 1997 from his college literary society and which he seldom travels without, Macbeth thumped to order the official business Dec. 17.
U.S. Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia served as an unofficial guest of honor, praising his fellow party leaders for their work delivering the commonwealth again to President Obama and the role they’re playing in the Democratic process.
“After an election, we come together as Virginians and as Americans,” Warner said. “ … As somebody who now works a little bit further north, we need to all understand that the election is over, and we now have to be about the very, very difficult task of governing.”
The state capital was a jovial place for Democrats on Electors’ Day. For them, it represented progress and the payoff of hard work. And while Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell gave brief remarks at the ceremony, and though the GOP control the state’s General Assembly, on Dec. 17 the famed statehouse belonged to Democrats.
“In 2008 we changed the guard and this year we guarded the change,” Del. Charniele Herring, the recently-elected chair of the Virginia Democratic Party, told Democrats at the electors’ reception.
The general election of 2008 was the first time since 1964 Virginians voted for a Democrtic candidate for president.
“We turned Virginia blue and now it’s going to stay blue,” another elector said during the reception.
Macbeth pointed out the symbolism of officially voting for the nation’s first African-American president from the center of Richmond, which served as the capital for the Confederacy during the Civil War. “This is what progress looks like,” he said.
The electoral college is not without its detractors. Opponents say it’s not a decisive means to elect the so-called “leader of the free world.” The 2000 election quickly comes to mind, when President George W. Bush lost the popular vote by more than 500,000 votes yet won the electoral vote.
Though he understands some criticisms of the current system, Macbeth said he believes in the electoral college, calling it a transparent and thorough method.
“Of course I believe in it,” Macbeth said. “I’m a part of it … It’s the process we have, and it provides a clear-cut winner.”
It also provided Macbeth, a staunch and proud Democrat, a more-exclusive spot in the history books.
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