Inauguration Day review: the real Election Day

As we look forward to Barack Obama’s second inauguration (and fourth Oath of Office*), let us hearken back to the day he was re-elected. I refer, of course, to the Monday following the second Wednesday in December (in 2012, that was December 17). That’s when all 538 Presidential and 538 Vice Presidential votes were cast. That’s when 332 of those Electors — a clear, solid majority of the electorate — voted for the winning ticket, Obama and Biden. You may think you were voting for Obama/Biden or Romney/Ryan (or even for one of the other pairs on the ballot) on November 6, but you weren’t. In truth, you were voting for slates of Electors, who are the only Americans who actually cast Presidential and Vice Presidential ballots.


  1. botched by the Chief Justice in 2009
  2. re-administered in 2009
  3. privately, today
  4. tomorrow at noon

You weren’t an Elector, nor was I. However, I was a whole lot closer to matriculating at the Electoral College than any of our readers — had Maria Ehsan, the Elector chosen at the 7th Congressional District’s Democratic caucus back in May, been unable to attend the Electoral College meeting in Olympia, yours truly (the Alternate Elector from WA-07) would have taken her place as one of Washington’s 12 Electors.

So I was right there in the State Reception Room in Olympia’s Legislative Building at noon on December 17, peering over the shoulders of the Electors as they cast their votes. I can affirm that we had no faithless Electors in the state of Washington in 2012, despite the ridiculous efforts of teahadists to get them to change their minds. Even I, as a mere Alternate, received a letter from one of them; if you’re interested, you can read a DailyKos diary I wrote about it, as well as the letter itself (page 1, page 2). The Electors — and, I presume, Democratic Electors in all of the blue states — were hit with both snail-mail and email.

Electors at work

Parenthetically, in its Presidential election history since 1892, Washington has seen one faithless Elector. In 1976, when Washington backed Jerry Ford over Jimmy Carter (who, of course, won nationally), Republican Elector Mike Padden wrote Ronald Reagan on his ballot. Reagan had narrowly lost to the incumbent President in the GOP primaries and convention, and apparently Padden was still upset about it.

And where is this renegade, this apostate, now? Why, he was just re-elected to the State Senate from the 4th LD near Spokane; this lawbreaker (RCW 29A.56.340 cites a $1000 fine for faithless Electors) currently chairs the Senate Law and Justice Committee. Then again, Republicans probably think he was a savant for tossing aside Ford to choose St. Ronnie four years early.

So what was it like to participate in this Constitutionally-mandated ceremony, this unique exercise of the American system of governance? To be honest, it was a rather dull event, carefully stage-managed by Sam Reed and his staff. They had a very strict protocol to follow, directed by the National Archives. Except for a couple of verbal slips — Sam Reed: “the United Nations, uh, I mean States”, presiding Elector Heather Fralick: “12 votes for Joe Biden as President of the United States” — the really interesting stuff came before the Electoral College was convened and right at the very end of the event.

Before going into that, though, here’s proof that Washington’s Electors voted as their fellow voters asked them to:

Barack on POTUS ballotJoe on VP ballot

The first order of business on the agenda was the election of a chair for the meeting. The Electors had discussed that choice via email, and one of them had suggested simply drawing straws. When they met in the Secretary of State’s office before the ceremony, however, one of the Electors objected, preferring an actual election process for that wholly ceremonial position. So they ended up holding a vote to determine how to elect their chairperson. (Oh, how capital-d Democratic of them!) That vote (see below for documentation) came out 8-3 in favor of straws, and that procedure was used to select Fralick to the position.

Vote on how to choose Chair

Later, as the ceremony wound down, several of the Electors asked to make a few remarks to the assemblage. In an emotional talk, Alec Stephens (one of the two at-large Electors) noted with great pride that we had three African-Americans and one Native American among our dozen Electors. Stephens himself is one of the black Electors, as are Georgia Spencer of WA-09 and Harvey Brooks of WA-10. The Elector from WA-08, Elisabeth Satiacum, is a member of the Puyallup Tribe. If he’d had more time to reflect on it, Stephens might also have pointed out that Grifynn Clay, the Elector from WA-01, is just 18 years old … and wasn’t yet a legal voter in May, when he was selected by his Congressional District Caucus. Here are all 12 Electors, along with Sam Reed, our now-former camera-hog Secretary of State:

WA Electors and SoS photo theElectors_zpscba9bdc1.jpg

The Electoral College may be an anachronism. It’s certainly a unique feature of the American political process; no other country has anything remotely similar. And it’s certainly an honor for the small number of citizens who serve as Electors. I’m proud that Washington’s Electors (the Democrats, that is … I don’t know how the Republicans make their choices, and it hardly matters anyway) are chosen by their fellow citizens. Oh, to be sure, they’re political activists one and all. They attended precinct caucuses, where they were elected to attend LD or county caucuses, where they were elected to attend Congressional District caucuses, where they were elected by CD caucus attendees. Or they were chosen by those activists who attended the Democratic state convention. But they’re still regular people — lawyers and students, retired and unemployed, entrepreneurs and union members.

In contrast, consider Massachusetts. The Democratic and Republican slates of 11 potential Electors are shown on the second page of the Commonwealth’s Return of Votes document (PDF). I don’t recognize the names of the Democrats, though there is one Kennedy — probably not one of those Kennedys — among them. But the Republicans are another story altogether: Ann Romney (Mrs. Mitt), Tagg Romney (Mitt’s son), Eric Fehrnstrom (Mitt’s Etch-A-Sketch advisor), Beth Myers and Peter Flaherty (co-leaders with Fernstrom of The Shawmut Group, GOP consultants), Spencer Zwick (Tagg Romney’s business partner), Kerry Healey (Mitt’s Lieutenant Governor). Et al. Not exactly “we, the people”, not exactly the 47%.

I just happened to run across the MA slates while doing something else, and haven’t reviewed (or even looked for) any others. Therefore, I don’t know whether other states more closely resemble us or them. WA-06 Elector-activist photo Gailshirt_zpsfad5442a.jpgHowever, given that most states don’t use the sort of multi-level caucus process we enjoy here, my guess is that more of them are like the Bay State than the Evergreen State. In any case, I seriously doubt that very many Electors in Massachusetts or any other state would have cast their ballots dressed like Gail Kirk of the 6th Congressional District. At 83 and wheelchair-bound, she’s still feisty as all hell. And a hell of a Democrat. Gail was really the hit of the show, drawing much attention from her colleagues and the rest of the crowd. She wears her heart on her sleeve, and on her tee-shirt!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that you can watch the Electoral College in action on TVW. It runs a bit under 43 minutes. And I must also inform you that I was paid to be an Alternate Elector. As mandated by RCW 29A.56.350:

Every presidential elector who attends at the time and place appointed, and gives his or her vote for president and vice president, is entitled to receive from this state, five dollars for each day’s attendance at the meeting of the college of electors, and ten cents per mile for travel by the usually traveled route in going to and returning from the place where the electors meet.

Although it isn’t specifically stated, this law is applied to Alternate Electors as well … a few days ago, I received a check ($18.36) from the State of Washington.

And finally, a photograph of Washington’s Electors and (most of the) Alternate Electors. This shot is much clearer and better composed than the others (which were taken by yours truly, with a cheap camera) because it was taken by Andrew Villeneuve of the Northwest Progressive Institute. Thanks, Andrew!

WA 2012 Electoral College and Alternates photo DEC12-WA-Electors-and-Alternates-2012_zps3fd40d18.jpg

I know you’re curious … that’s me kneeling, lower left.


  1. 1

    Willis spews:

    N – I always suspected you lived an alternate lifestyle. ;-)

    Thanks for the post. Good stuff. You really should write more here….

  2. 3

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    The predictable outcome of the Electoral College voting process REPUDIATES the jerks who think the votes of the 65,899,660 Americans who re-elected President Barack Obama shouldn’t count for squat.

    One more thing: On this historic day Jim Miller can’t think of anything to write about besides BEDBUGS. Could a blog possibly be less relevant than (u)SP?

  3. 7

    MikeBoyScout spews:

    Kap’n Kornflake – – Serial Reneger with fantasies of pedophilia,

    You know who is not celebrating a presidential inauguration today?
    The slate you wagered would win and who, as Darryl’s analysis consistently showed would be annihilated, Rmoney/Ryan.

    So, stop cutting and pasting your WINGNUT talking points and write a check for $1,000 payable to Northwest Harvest and send it to Darryl.

    Today is the day for you to stop preaching about others and start living up to your obligations. WRITE and SEND the check.

  4. 10

    MikeBoyScout spews:

    @8 Kap’n Kornflake – – Serial Reneger with fantasies of pedophilia,

    That’s the spirit Bob, you lying twisted POS concern troll!

    You and your kind are why we Obama/Biden supporters worked so hard in the last election to ensure you did not get close to political power.

    And you, Bob, exemplify daily here at HA how morally bankrupt and corrupt the Republican party is.

    Thank you for all the things you don’t do, and demand of others.

    WRITE and SEND the check, loser.

  5. 11

    MikeBoyScout spews:

    Hey, for today’s celebration of President Obama’s and Vice President Biden’s 2nd inauguration let’s take note of what they won.

    Popular Vote:
    Obama/Biden: 65,899,660 (51.1%)
    Romney/Ryan: 60,929,152 (47.2%) LOL

    Electoral College:
    Obama/Biden: 332
    Romney/Ryan: 206

    And I think we all know this now, but it bears repeating.
    Obama/Biden are the first ticket to win with greater than 51% of the popular vote in consecutive elections since President Eisenhower did it in 1956.
    GWB didn’t do that. Reagan didn’t do that.

    Obama did that! :-)

  6. 12


    @ 11

    Yes, America has spoken and Obama has been re-elected.

    Obama’s strongest support came from those under 30. Not exactly those most qualified to weigh in on America’s future, since a majority of them have don’t know what Roe v. Wade was:

    Among those younger than 30, just 44% know that the case was about abortion; 16% say it dealt with school desegregation, and 41% either say it dealt with another issue (the death penalty or the environment), or do not know.

    but there you have it. The man who most effectively played to the lowest common denominator has another 4 years. And no, by lowest common denominator I wasn’t talking about Biden, although that dumbfuck has some significant knowledge challenges @ 4 of his own.

  7. 13

    MikeBoyScout spews:

    @13 Kap’n Kornflake – – Serial Reneger with fantasies of pedophilia,

    Sour grapes much loser?

    You know what those under 30 voters absolutely knew? They knew they wanted Obama to be their president.
    They knew they did not want Romney to be president.

    And the fact of the matter is that the confidence and support of the American people for our reelected president and the Democratic party’s policy agenda has grown since the election;
    the election you wagered on and lost, and then reneged on your bet, just like any number of loudmouth losing Republicans.

    L O S E R.

  8. 14

    Moderate Man spews:

    Echoing @1 – thanks for this write-up! I enjoyed the backstage look at the process.

  9. 15

    No Time for Fascists spews:

    Since the only progressive talk station was changed to be the THIRD sports talk station in the area, I skim the THREE conservative talk stations on my drive in.

    No mention of the event happening in Washington DC today, apparently the only things worth talking about were:

    Guns, Guns, Guns, Guns, Guns. Be afraid, Obama wants to take your guns.

    More guns. A patient but exasperated teacher rep explaining slowly and repeatedly to the host that every school district cannot afford to put armed guards in every school, when they don’t have enough money for a quality education as it is. She ask if the host was for raising taxes and he cut to commercial, and did not answer the question.

    A host was whining about people in a restaurant were being intolerant and vocal about a disruptive special needs child at nearby table. The irony of “reaping what you sow” was lost on him.

  10. 16


    Serial, I won’t delete your sour, off-topic, grapes for now. Though if you keep ignoring MBS’s message about that check to Northwest Harvest by posting your irrelevant imbicility, I’ll happily send your crapola into the bitbucket it so richly deserves.

    Happy Inauguration Day to all, even the idiots amongst us!

  11. 18

    MikeBoyScout spews:

    Belated thanks for all you did to make this day and our celebration today a reality. And thanks for the informative post.

    Today we the people celebrate our decision to move our country’s people forward.

  12. 19

    No Time for Fascists spews:

    Serial “Reneger with gay fantasies” Conn and the conservatives and the republicans and the tea baggers only had a message of protect the richest at the expense of everyone else, voter suppression, intolerance, and war on women. That’s why they lost.
    The only way republicans won so many state legislatures is by cheating and gerrymandering.

  13. 20


    @ 16

    N in Seattle:

    I lost. I paid up. I provided verification.

    MBS is upset because I paid by CC rather than by check. I suppose that, had I paid in cash and obtained a receipt, he would similarly be upset.

    So lemme get this straight: It’s OK for MBS to incorrectly claim, repeatedly, that I didn’t pay. It’s not OK for me to ignore his messages. It’s OK for him to be rude and insulting but it’s not OK for me to reply in kind.

    Doesn’t the “Heads I Win, Tails You Lose” game get old after awhile?

  14. 21


    N in Seattle,

    “Serial, I won’t delete your sour, off-topic, grapes for now. “

    But I will.

    Seriously, Bob…we have lot and lots of places you can dump your troll drivel—posts titled “Open Thread”, “Drinking Liberally”, “Sunday Bible Study”, and “Friday Night Multimedia Extravaganza”.

    Elsewhere, please contribute to the discussion by sticking to the topic of the post.

  15. 22


    @ 16, 21

    I misconstrued this as an open thread of sorts, and apologize for doing so.

    I did not know that the Bible Study threads are open.

    I hope everyone enjoys the for-show re-inauguration of our co-presidents Obama and Biden.

  16. 23

    MikeBoyScout spews:

    BoBo is on PBS bemoaning the President’s address as exceedingly liberal. What a f*doing wanking tool.

  17. 24



    How much brainpower does it take to realize that an essay of nearly 1500 words devoted almost entirely to the experience of participating in the Electoral College fails to meet the criteria for “open thread”?

    Don’t answer that … doing so would prove my point.

  18. 25

    MikeBoyScout spews:

    If you’ve watched the inauguration celebration today I hope you can feel proud of our nation.

    There’s a lot that’s not right about politics in America today, but we still do the transition of power better than everybody. Still.

  19. 27

    MikeBoyScout spews:

    @26 and you’re still a reneging concern troll.

    goes to show nothing is perfect and the path to a more perfect union shall always be a struggle. That’s ok AH, we’re up for it.

  20. 28

    MikeBoyScout spews:

    Jimmy Carter catches a lot of useless unsubstantiated criticism, but as I watch the President walking on Pennsylvania Avenue I’m reminded that what most Americans will know about Jimmy Carter in 50 years is that he started the tradition of the President walking on a cold January day down Pennsylvania Avenue.

    That the tradition continues is interesting itself. That it continues post 9-11 with all the security theater we live in today is a testament to President Carter’s political chops.

  21. 31

    No Time for Fascists spews:

    My fellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recited by others who serve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and country, not party or faction – and we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service.

    A nice reference to grover.

  22. 32

    No Time for Fascists spews:

    We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future. For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty, and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn. We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other – through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security – these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.

    Argue with THAT conservatives!

  23. 33

    No Time for Fascists spews:

    So, let me get this straight. Republicans spent Obama’s first term on a scorched-earth campaign, hoping to destroy his presidency and nearly everything he proposed. GOP leaders met exactly four years ago yesterday to plot their recovery by obstructing the president wherever possible, and refusing to compromise with Obama on literally anything, even when he embraced Republican ideas — and then they executed that plot without hesitation or shame.

    After Obama received another endorsement from the American electorate, members of the shrinking Senate minority heard the president offer a robust defense of his governing vision, and their first reaction is … it lacked “outreach” to the other side?

    Yeah, after all, the republicans won the election didn’t they? Their polls said they would.

  24. 34

    MikeBoyScout spews:

    The eloquent Charles P. Pierce wrote something very worth reading about today’s events on the Mall
    On The Mall — Gold Section

    WASHINGTON — Down in the Gold section, midway down the mall, and hard by the Museum Of The History Of The American Indian, that was where the truth of things was coming down. People watched on the big screens, far distant from the banalities of counterfeit bonhomie that grow more deafening the closer you get to the looming rostrum and the end of the mall — and, not coincidentally, the closer you get to the Capitol itself as well. Down in the Gold section, John Boehner got booed when he came out onto the marble steps, and it was suggested merrily that the president kiss his vice-president on both cheeks, which is certainly not something anyone suggested George Washington should do to John Adams.
    Down in the Gold section was where it was plain and obvious that, last November, somebody won something and somebody lost something. It is now more cliche than it is insight that this country’s re-electing a black president, and in the teeth of eight-percent unemployment and a political opposition dedicated to not allowing him to do much of anything about it, in many ways was more remarkable than having elected him in the first place. That is a fine talking-point to bat around in the green room, but it was down in the Gold section where it was absolutely real, and part of the great underground river that flows beneath the polite American history that is taught in schools and that was celebrated so enthusiastically yesterday. It was down in the Gold section where they felt that river burst so powerfully to the surface at one point in the president’s speech.

    Go read the whole thing. You won’t be disappointed.

  25. 35

    MikeBoyScout spews:

    @30 for me the most uplifting and remarkable piece of the President’s address today was

    We the people declare today that the most evident of truth that all of us are created equal — is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.

    That’s the money shot right there.
    And to put the cherry on that remarkable string of fought for liberty connections, it comes with alliteration.

  26. 36

    MikeBoyScout spews:

    @30 the runner up remark is

    We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future. For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn. We do not believe that in this country freedom is reserved for the lucky or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us at any time may face a job loss or a sudden illness or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative. They strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers. They free us to take the risks that make this country great.

    And it is that little line which has driven the WINGNUT Republicans nuts.
    It’s a cockpunch thrown with all the rhetorical strength possible, and it hurts ‘em because the President laid it on the line. He has no truck with their BS.
    And he reaffirmed what was decided by the election We the People have nothing in common with that ‘taker’ BS either.

    All in all, it was an Inaugural Address for those who fought for and voted for him. We heard it. We applaud it.

    Next, we implement it.

  27. 37

    No time for Fascists spews:

    And for an opposing view
    It’s an amazing collection of proven lies and distortions. this guy are livid that he’s a two term president.

    Being the “loyal opposition” will not be enough to stop a demagogue. We can yield no more ground. We have to fight him in every arena if we hope to survive as the country we once were. If the GOP will not lead, then the American people must. We can no longer wait on the hapless GOP establishment. Reagan advanced conservatism as a private citizen long before he entered politics. We must do the same.

    I wonder what he means?

  28. 38


    I wonder what he means?

    Reagan propounded conspiratorial trash and right wing garbage for YEARS and YEARS all throughout his turn to the right starting with his stint with GE from which he was FIRED by trashing the TVA in typical bombastic facts shredding right wing style..

    See here:

    So WWRRD, “what would Ronnie Raygun do?”, is very much on silly right wing ding “minds” these days..

    Their pinheads have been thrown into a tizzy by the triumph of “the community organizer”.. Imagine a washing machine with an unbalanced load spinning till it craps out entirely.

    Couldn’t happen to nicer people.

  29. 39


    Poor Bob.. In his pathetic reckoning, young people are old enough to be canon fodder in right wing wars but don’t have the judgement to choose a seasoned veteran of the White House over a desperate, grasping pathological liar.