Electoral College: Conn. Electors Talk Controversy

Dec 15, 2016

On Monday 538 electors are expected to gather at state capitols all across the country to cast their vote for U.S. president. This year, particular attention is being paid to this exercise because for the second time in 16 years, the candidate who lost the popular vote for president is expected to win the Electoral College vote.

That is because the tradition has been that most electors vote for the candidate who won their state, and Republican Donald Trump won the majority of states in the country. Democrat Hillary Clinton won in New York and Connecticut so the electors from both states are all Democrats who are expected to vote for her.  

WSHU’s Senior Political Reporter Ebong Udoma spoke with some Connecticut electors, and he sat down with Morning Edition Host Tom Kuser to discuss what he learned.

Below is a transcript of their conversation.

Ebong, how does one become an elector?

Tom, in Connecticut we have seven electors. Because Hillary Clinton won in Connecticut, they are all Democrats. They were selected by the state Democratic Party’s convention in May. Some lobbied for it, while others just had it handed to them.

Barbara Gordon is a longtime Democratic activist from West Hartford. She’s in her 80s, and she says she had to lobby for it.

“It takes a lot of lobbying. I lobbied my town chairman, I lobbied my state chairman, I even said something to the governor one day, who said ‘Oh, I can’t believe you’ve never been an elector.’ Because I have been involved in politics since I was 17-years-old. That was over 60 years ago, just don’t do the math. So I was not able to go to the national convention, but I wanted to be part of what I knew would be an historical presidential election. It didn’t quite work out historical the way I wanted it to, but nonetheless it is, I think, a very historical election.”

She says she had hoped she would be casting her ballot for the first woman president.

“I’m very disappointed, obviously, but I do feel that I’m part of history now. There are only 538 of us across the country and it may very well be the last time electors are involved. The next four years could bring a change in this whole system.”

Hmm, a change to the system in the next four years. What does Gordon mean by that?

She’s talking about the calls for the Electoral College to be abandoned because it’s not reflecting the popular vote.

Do other electors agree with her?

Some do. Here’s her fellow elector, Steven Jones. He’s the Democratic Town Committee chair in Tolland.

“You know I do think that the Electoral College isn’t perfect. I do believe it should be treated like the Constitution that it should be reviewed and reformed from time to time. I do believe that having a review of whether or not the Electoral College works and where it may be necessary to change should be done.”

But others don’t. Here’s 37-year-old Bridgeport State Representative Christopher Rosario. He’s an elector who feels Democrats should get beyond the Electoral College.

“We got to deal with it and move on, especially for the Democratic Party we have some soul searching, we have a lot of work to do, we have to build up our benches starting with our state legislatures, our local town committees and working our way up.”   

Interesting. So Rosario is optimistic Democrats can get beyond their disappointment with the Electoral College?

Yes, and that’s probably because he is one of the younger electors. However, he seems pretty enamored by the process.

“When I first got the state convention I was going to second the nomination for U.S. Senator Blumenthal and never in a million years, did I think that I was going to be chosen as an elector. So I woke up that day not knowing I was going to be chosen and I was told as soon as I walked in the door, hey…I didn’t lobby for it and talking with people from the Bridgeport delegation, people that had been involved in politics for way longer than I have been alive, I’m only 37-years-old, I’m going to be 38 next month, they were saying that was their dream to be a presidential elector.”

You know Tom, Rosario, says he’s looking forward to telling his children and grandchildren in years to come about this experience.  

So, Ebong what exactly is going to happen on Monday?

It’s going to be quite a ceremony. The electors will meet in the secretary of the state’s office at the State Capitol for refreshments. And then they’ll be escorted by the foot guard to the Senate Chamber on the third floor of the Capitol. There at noon, they’ll take the ceremonial vote and sign their names to a document that the secretary of state will then send on to Congress in Washington.

And that’s it?

That’s it.

Thank you, Ebong.

Thank you, Tom.