Tuesday December 18, 2012

MONTPELIER -- There were no surprises Monday when Vermont’s three electors cast the state’s votes in the Electoral College to formally elect President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden to a second term except that a fifth grade class on tour of the Statehouse got to watch.

"It was an amazing teachable opportunity," said Cindy Tan, a teacher at Chamberlin School in South Burlington. "It only happens every four years."

Electors from around the country gathered in their state capitals to make the Obama-Biden victory official.

For Democratic state Rep. Kevin Christie of Hartford the experience was exciting for him personally.

"Being a person of color here in Vermont, and Vermont being as unique as it is as far as its values it’s an incredible feeling to be an elector," he said.

Vermont was the first state whose electoral votes were placed in the column of President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. The three electors are bound by state law to follow the popular vote.

The group of 23 fifth graders watched as the trio was sworn in, picked a president of the meeting, filled out ballots and then signed paperwork over the course of about 10 minutes.

"It’s very excited to be an elector," said Sherry Merrick of Post Mills who was elected as a delegate to the Democratic convention both in 2008 and this year.


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"And then to follow through with being able to cast the vote, one vote, as one of the three electors in Vermont is an honor, a privilege and one of my greatest days in political ... life," she said.

Vermont has joined a list of states that want to get around the Electoral College and participate in a national popular vote. A bill passed last year puts Vermont on record agreeing to throw its Electoral College votes to whichever candidate wins the national popular vote in presidential elections.

Backers say that if enough states sign on to build that total to 270 -- the number needed to win a presidential election -- the country can change the way it holds national elections without amending the Constitution.

While some want to do away with the Electoral College all together, Christie and Merrick think it’s needed.

"I think the founders were well prepared in their thinking to try to have a fail-safe for the system to ensure that the electoral process, the electorate, got their expectation met," said Christie.