Thursday, December 22, 2016

My Experience at the Electoral College

Monday December 19 was a memorable day in my life. I participated as a member of the California Electoral College, casting one of my state's 55 Electoral Votes for Hillary Clinton, the 2016 winner of our state in the presidential election. It was a tremendous honor to be part of this traditional rite, established by Article II of the Constitution and later modified by the Twelfth Amendment. You can read about the process by which I was appointed in my blog of November 21. In today's entry I'll tell you about the process I participated in on Monday, December 19, the day the Electoral College meetings took place in all the states plus the District of Columbia.

The California Electoral College meeting took place at the State Capitol in Sacramento. We checked in at the Governor's Conference Room on the main floor about 10 A.M. There we received our credentials and our guest passes. Electors were permitted two guests, who could watch the proceedings from the galleries above the Assembly Chamber. I invited my wife Joan and Louis Campos, the Democratic candidate for my congressional district, the 22nd, who had nominated me to the Electoral College. The next scheduled activity wasn't until 1:00, so we toured the Capitol Building and went out for lunch at a nearby Mexican restaurant.

The 1:00 order of business was to attend a briefing. The Electors went to a legislative committee room to receive final instructions before the meeting convened. I got to meet a couple of interesting people. I sat between Faith Garamendi, daughter of Congressman and former Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi, and John MacMurray, whose wife is a Board Member on the La Habra City School District. La Habra is a town in north Orange County where I went to elementary school. At 1:30 P.M. we left the committee room to take the elevator up to the second floor to enter the Assembly Chamber, where the official College would be convened. Joan and Louie were at the same time going up to the third floor to find a place in the gallery.

The organizers had assigned seating for us on the Assembly floor, and we had to find our name placards on the desks. I found my place on the right side of the center aisle as you faced the rostrum, fairly close to the front. Seated next to me on my left was a woman named Donna Irvine of Pleasanton, on the inland side of Oakland. A retired community college office manager, Donna was extremely happy and proud to be part of the proceedings. She had been nominated by Congressman Eric Swallwell, whom she had met five years before in his first run for congress, when he came knocking at her door walking precincts. That led to her volunteering for his campaign and eventually his nomination of her as an Elector. As I took my seat I was glad to see Joan and Louie had secured an excellent vantage point in the gallery in the front row on the left side. They had a good view of the rostrum and they and I had a clear line of sight between us. California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, the state constitutional officer responsible for seeing that the meeting was properly called, carried out and recorded, mingled on the Assembly floor and chatted with the Electors.

Assemblyman Ken Cooley called the meeting to order shortly after two o'clock. No doubt he was selected for this role due to his parliamentary expertise as Chairman of the Assembly Rules Committee. We began with a prayer from a Buddhist Priest. He called for everyone to be mindful, pointing out that Confucius, Bishop Desmond Tutu and Pope John Paul II all spent four hours a day in prayer or meditation. Following this, the College recited the Pledge of Allegiance. The Tellers (two young Democratic Party aides) then read off the roll call of Electors. Pages circulated through the floor, giving us each an official paper with our name on it to sign, verifying our attendance. Alex Padilla rose to administer the Oath of Office to the assembled Electors. We pledged to defend the United States and California constitutions "against all enemies, foreign and domestic."

We proceeded to the election of a chairperson of the College. Prior to the meeting we Electors had received an email from California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton asking us to support Elector and SEIU official Laphonza Butler as chairperson. Christine Pelosi nominated her, there was a second, no other candidates were nominated, Mr. Cooley called for voice votes of aye and nay and Ms. Butler was elected. An honor guard of six 6 Electors was selected to escort her from her seat with the rest of us on the Assembly floor to the rostrum to assume her duties. Assemblyman Cooley handed her the gavel and took a seat.

When the roll had been read, four of the 55 Electors had not been present. By pre-arrangement, Elector Christine Pelosi now nominated four replacements from the appropriate districts. They were seconded and elected in turn by voice vote as called for by the Chair. We then turned to the election of a Secretary. The same email from Chairman Burton that had asked us to support Laphonza Butler for Electoral College Chair had asked for our support for retired State Senator Christine Kehoe as Secretary. She was nominated by Pelosi, seconded and elected by unanimous voice vote. As with Butler, an honor guard of six Electors was selected to escort her to the rostrum to assume her office.

Now that all formalities and preliminaries were complete it was time to fulfill the solemn duty for which we had been summoned: the casting of our official votes for President and Vice President of the United States. At the direction of the Chair, pages came around with large, pre-printed ballots. Each of us was given two ballots on heavy card stock. The one bordered in blue had Hillary Clinton for President; the one bordered in red had Tim Kaine for Vice President. These were the candidates who had received the overwhelming majority of California's votes on Election Day. To validate the ballot all we had to do was sign our name at the bottom. If we had wanted to vote for someone else we would have had to cross out the pre-printed name of the candidate and write someone else in.

Filling out our ballots.

Pages came around, collected our ballots and brought them up to the rostrum. The pages came back around with a succession of additional official papers for us to sign. Different sets of the same materials were destined for different recipients. Some are going to the U.S. Senate, where the ballots will be officially tallied before a joint session of Congress on January 6. Others will remain in the possession of the California Secretary of State's Office. Another set goes to the National Archives. When she had received them all, Christine Kehoe as Secretary of the Electoral College counted up the vote. Both votes were unanimous: 55-0 for Hillary Clinton for President and 55-0 for Tim Kaine for Vice President. Each of these results was greeted by an enthusiastic round of applause from the Electors and the gallery.

After the vote and the signing of official documents Pelosi introduced a resolution calling on the Congress to initiate an immediate investigation of possible foreign interference in the election process. This was seconded and unanimously passed by voice vote. The Chair then thanked us for our service and called for a motion to adjourn. once that was passed official photographers took pictures and our guests were invited down to join us on the Assembly floor.

Joan, I and Louie after the vote.