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10th Congressional District elector makes it official, casts vote for Obama

photoThe House of Delegates chamber at the statehouse in Richmond served as the setting Dec. 17 for the Electoral College vote-casting in the commonwealth. Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Trevor Baratko

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.”

photoDemocrat Evan Macbeth of Leesburg served as the 10th Congressional District Presidential Elector Dec. 17 in Richmond. The Electoral College met in state capitals across the nation Monday to officially cast its votes. Photo Courtesy/Abbe Macbeth

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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I threw up in my mouth a little bit.

A survey of Virginia voters showed 74% overall support for a national popular vote for President.

By age, support for a national popular vote was 82% among 18-29 year olds, 75% among 30-45 year olds, 75% among 46-65 year olds, and 68% for those older than 65.

By gender, support for a national popular vote was 82% among women and 65% among men.

By political affiliation, support for a national popular vote was 79% for a national popular vote among liberal Democrats (representing 17% of respondents), 86% among moderate Democrats (representing 21% of respondents), 79% among conservative Democrats (representing 10% of respondents), 76% among liberal Republicans (representing 4% of respondents), 63% among moderate Republicans (representing 14% of respondents), and 54% among conservative Republicans (representing 17% of respondents), and 79% among Others (representing 17% of respondents).

The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps.
When the bill is enacted by states with a majority of the electoral votes– enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538), all the electoral votes from the enacting states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC.

The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for President. Historically, virtually all of the major changes in the method of electing the President, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have come about by state legislative action.
In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in virtually every state surveyed in recent polls in recent closely divided Battleground states: CO – 68%, FL – 78%, IA 75%, MI – 73%, MO – 70%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM– 76%, NC – 74%, OH – 70%, PA – 78%, VA – 74%, and WI – 71%; in Small states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK – 70%, DC – 76%, DE – 75%, ID – 77%, ME – 77%, MT – 72%, NE 74%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM – 76%, OK – 81%, RI – 74%, SD – 71%, UT – 70%, VT – 75%, WV – 81%, and WY – 69%; in Southern and Border states: AR – 80%, KY- 80%, MS – 77%, MO – 70%, NC – 74%, OK – 81%, SC – 71%, TN – 83%, VA – 74%, and WV – 81%; and in other states polled: AZ – 67%, CA – 70%, CT – 74%, MA – 73%, MN – 75%, NY – 79%, OR – 76%, and WA – 77%. Americans believe that the candidate who receives the most votes should win.
The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers in 21 states with 243 electoral votes. The bill has been enacted by 9 jurisdictions with 132 electoral votes - 49% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.
Follow National Popular Vote on Facebook via NationalPopularVoteInc

The presidential election system that we have today was not designed, anticipated, or favored by the Founding Fathers but, instead, is the product of decades of evolutionary change precipitated by the emergence of political parties and enactment by 48 states of winner-take-all laws,  not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution.

The Electoral College is now the set of 538 dedicated party activists, who vote as rubberstamps for presidential candidates.  In the current presidential election system, 48 states award all of their electors to the winners of their state. This is not what the Founding Fathers intended.
The Founding Fathers in the Constitution did not require states to allow their citizens to vote for president, much less award all their electoral votes based upon the vote of their citizens.

The presidential election system we have today is not in the Constitution.

Most Americans don’t care whether their presidential candidate wins or loses in their state. . . they care whether he/she wins the White House. Voters want to know, that even if they were on the losing side, their vote actually was directly and equally counted and mattered to their candidate.  Most Americans think it’s wrong for the candidate with the most popular votes to lose. We don’t allow this in any other election in our representative republic.

The precariousness of the current state-by-state winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes is highlighted by the fact that a shift of a few thousand voters in one or two states would have elected the second-place candidate in 4 of the 14 presidential elections since World War II.  Near misses are now frequently common.  There have been 7 consecutive non-landslide presidential elections (1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012). 537 popular votes won Florida and the White House for Bush in 2000 despite Gore’s lead of 537,179 (1,000 times more) popular votes nationwide. A shift of 60,000 voters in Ohio in 2004 would have defeated President Bush despite his nationwide lead of over 3 million votes.   

During the course of campaigns, candidates are educated and campaign about the local, regional, and state issues most important to the handful of battleground states they need to win.  They take this knowledge and prioritization with them once they are elected.  Candidates need to be educated and care about all of our states.

The current state-by-state winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but since enacted by 48 states), under which all of a state’s electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state, ensures that the candidates, after the conventions, in 2012 did not reach out to about 80% of the states and their voters. Candidates had no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or care about the voter concerns in the dozens of states where they were safely ahead or hopelessly behind.
80% of the states and people were just spectators to the presidential elections. That’s more than 85 million voters, 200 million Americans.

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