Electors make it count

October 30, 2000

Electors make it count

By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W. Va. - Then number that will count most on election day next week is not 51 but 270.

And some Eastern Panhandle residents are working to ensure they are one of the 270.

That's because it doesn't matter if George W. Bush or Al Gore get 51 percent of the popular vote. They must win 270 votes from the Electoral College, accumulated state-by-state as envisioned by the country's founders.

You don't get a degree from this college.

Instead, each state gets one electoral vote for each member of the U.S. House and its two senators. For West Virginia, that translates into five votes. All will go to the candidate who carries the state. Since there are 538 electoral votes the winner must collect 270. A candidate could lose the popular vote and still win the election.

The electors will convene in their state capitals Dec. 18 and vote. The presidential election becomes official only on Jan. 6, when the Electoral College vote totals are read in the U.S. Senate at a ceremony to be conducted this year by Gore, who is president of the Senate.


The electors are chosen by their parties and are expected to vote for their candidate - although it's not mandatory. In 1988, a West Virginia elector switched the presidential and vice presidential Democrat candidates, voting Lloyd Bentsen for president and Michael Dukakis for vice president. In 1976, a Washington state Republican elector chose Ronald Reagan over Gerald Ford, even though Ford was the GOP nominee.

"You can bet when I get to be an elector, I will be voting for Gore-Lieberman," said Kim Sencindiver of Kearneysville, a 2nd Congressional District elector chosen at the state convention earlier this year.

"When George Bush carries this state, which I expect he will, I will cast my vote for him," said Charles Trump IV, of Berkeley Springs, a Republican elector and state House minority leader.

The job may seem more like an honor than a chore, but it is important.

"I'm interested in doing it because of the historical part it plays in the selection of a president," Trump said. "This was set up as a hybrid between the popular election of a president and having a president chosen by publicly elected officials."

Some elected officials once had more power than they do now. Until 1913, state legislatures - not the people of a state - chose U.S. senators.

"I'm a very patriotic person to begin with, so this was something I wanted to do," said Sencindiver, a volunteer aide to Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, and his 1998 campaign manager. Unger played a key role in getting her the job at the convention, she said.

"It was very spirited," Sencindiver said. "There were five of us to start with and the lowest person dropped out. As they did, John would go around from county to county in his stockbroker mode, trying to get me the votes. It was kind of a role reversal."

She added: "I'm looking forward to being able to say I represented the party."

Natural Law Party electors also live in the Panhandle, but could not be reached for comment.

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