Tuesday, December 19, 2000

Ohio electors true to Bush

By Spencer Hunt
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

        COLUMBUS — The 50th Electoral College of Ohio surprised no one when it cast all 21 votes Monday for George W. Bush as president and Dick Cheney as vice president.

        But the final result drew loud and relieved cheers from Republican Party members and elected officials who filled the Senate chamber.

        Most of the state electoral college's meetings over the past two centuries have been ignored as mere rubber stamps of the popular vote. After the U.S. Supreme Court settled the Florida recounts in his favor, Mr. Bush will become the first president to take office without winning the popular vote since Benjamin Harrison in 1888.

Change may be afoot

               That has prompted many Democrats and other political reformers to call for the abolition of the college. In Ohio, state Sen. Dan Brady, D-Cleveland, has set up his own campaign to push for the direct election of the next president.

        “It's an alien concept in America that the person who does not get the most votes wins,” Mr. Brady said.

        The Senate chamber, however, was filled with people ready to dispute Mr. Brady's claims and keep the Electoral College in place.

        “It's a fair process,” said Pakkir Rajagopol, a Cincinnati elector. “Even a small state has a voice.”

Electors party loyalists

               The candidates, working with their parties, select a slate of electors before Election Day. When the popular vote winner for each district is determined, that candidate's elector is selected to cast the vote. Because all of Ohio's electoral votes were won by Mr. Bush, none of the electors selected by Mr. Gore were called upon to vote in Columbus.

        Cincinnati elector Mercer Reynolds agreed that the current process is fair, saying the Electoral College ensures small states can still be a factor in the election. Without it, he said, big cities and the country's more populous regions would determine who wins the nation's highest office.

        “I came away convinced the Electoral College is what we need to run our system of government,” Mr. Reynolds said.

        As a group, the 21 elec tors covered a wide range of backgrounds, with Republican loyalty the one thing they had in common.

        Mr. Rajagopol works as a supervisor in the Hamilton County Probation Department. He viewed his selection as an elector as a recognition of his 20 years of unwavering devotion to the party.

        Mr. Reynolds is an investor and GOP fund-raiser from Indian Hill. He also was a business partner with Mr. Bush in several oil ventures and in the Texas Rangers professional baseball team.

        “I got pretty choked up thinking about how important that vote was,” he said.

        The event, which took a little more than one hour, also drew dozens of onlookers, reporters and a who's who of the Ohio Republican Party. Onlookers included Senate President Richard Finan, R-Evendale and Attorney General Betty Montgomery.

        Outgoing House Speaker Jo Ann Davidson, R-Rey noldsburg, served as an elector and as the chairwoman of the meeting. Ohio Republican Chairman Bob Bennett served as a substitute elector for Faye Sparks of Beavercreek, who could not attend because of illness.

        Gov. Bob Taft, Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell and Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer were present to fulfill constitutional and ceremonial roles.

        Justice Moyer quoted Thomas Jefferson to praise voters' patience through long weeks of recounts and court decisions.

        “No one could wish the leader of the executive branch would be determined by decisions of the judicial branch,” Justice Moyer said. “As in the past, the steady character of our countrymen is a rock to which we are safely moored.”

        In Kentucky, eight electors met in Frankfort to cast their votes for Mr. Bush. In Indianapolis, 12 electors for Mr. Bush voted.


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