Electoral College puts Bush over the top


Associated Press

With unwavering support from his presidential electors today, Texas Gov. George W. Bush secured the Electoral College majority needed to become the 43rd president.

With electors voting in their state capitals across the country, Nevada’s four electors put him over the top with a total of 271 votes, one more than the Constitution requires.

That closed the door on the remote possibility that a few “faithless electors” who had pledged to vote for Bush who might upset his victory by casting their ballots instead of Vice President Al Gore.

All that remains is for Congress to make the votes official on Jan. 6.

Though Democrats and political reformers tried to persuade Republicans to defect, the only rogue elector was a Democrat from the District of Columbia who had been pledged to Gore but left her ballot blank as a protest against the District’s lack of representation in Congress.

Sen. Joe Lieberman discouraged any switchers during a “thank-you” tour in Connecticut today.

“Al Gore and I don’t expect any surprises. We’ve certainly renounced any effort to change any electoral votes,” Lieberman said. He wouldn’t say whether they would accept such a victory, laughing and saying: “It’s too unlikely to think about.”

Gore and Lieberman got Washington’s nine votes.

The numbers won’t be officially tallied until a joint session of Congress in early January.

During Tennessee’s 20-minute meeting, Gov. Don Sundquist’s cell phone rang with a call from Vice President-elect Dick Cheney, who was returning a call about Sundquist’s thoughts on Cabinet appointments. After the meeting, an audience of 80 cheered and applauded the electors.

Across the country, GOP electors say they’re sticking to their promises. “I wouldn’t consider it,” said Jane Ham, a Bush elector from Nevada. “I’d have to be completely lacking in integrity.”

But in the last several weeks, an e-mail, letter and phone campaign has sought to persuade some Bush electors to switch, because he lost the popular vote even while winning enough states for an electoral-vote victory.

GOP officials nationwide dismissed the campaign, but some electors said they were keeping watch.

“The Republicans are nervous,” said Howard Lamb, a Bush elector from Nebraska. “They’re even going to bring us in the day before, put us up in hotel and feed us dinner.”

And though some Democrats have encouraged the wooing of so-called “faithless electors,” others have criticized the tactic.

“I think it’s unrealistic and I think it would be doomed to failure,” said New York elector Judith Hope, the state Democratic Party chairwoman, “and I think it would be a bad way to win the presidency.”

The meetings themselves vary from state to state: some in small offices, others in the grandeur of the legislative chambers. Alaska electors meet at an Anchorage library, while electors in the District of Columbia gather in city council chambers. Most meetings are wrapped up in an hour or less.

Other sessions feature local color.

North Carolina will bring in a high school color guard, while in Montana a student will sing the national anthem. In Alabama, people in costume will be dressed like James Madison and Benjamin Franklin.

“It’s a historic moment,” said Thomas P. Giblin Jr., chairman of the Democratic State Committee in New Jersey, which went heavily for Gore. “It’s part of the tradition that started over 200 years ago.”

For many electors, their votes will mark the end of a very emotional campaign.

“I go down there with a heavy heart,” said Joyce Savocchio, a Gore elector from Erie, Pa.

“The way it has turned out doesn’t leave me a sense of exultation,” added Chuck Clay, chairman of Georgia’s GOP and a Bush elector. “I’m happy. I’m satisfied. There’ll be time for partying at the inauguration.”

Votes are public in most states, while others – Minnesota, New York, Indiana and Washington, for example – conduct a secret ballot, though the results are made public.

New York’s ballots are slipped into a 16-pound mahogany box with a brass latch, from which they’re later removed and read out loud. In Connecticut, they’re placed in a wooden box made from the oak tree where the state’s charter was hidden during colonial times.

Afterward, the results are sent to state and federal officials, with the final national count set for Jan. 5 during a joint session of Congress.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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