SALEM, Ore. — Electors from all 50 states are voting today in their state capitols to cast their votes following the Nov. 3 general election.
A process which has historically received little attention is being looked at under a microscope this year, thanks to President Donald Trump’s attempts to sway battleground state electors in his favor. So far, electors in all these key states have upheld their state’s popular votes for President-elect Joe Biden.
All of Oregon and Washington’s electors cast their ballots for Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
How does the Electoral College work?
The Electoral College is the system by which the U.S. elects the president.
There are 538 electors total, and a candidate must receive a majority — or 270 votes — to win the presidency. Parties choose their electors, which are typically elected officials or party loyalists.
In states where Trump got more votes, the Republican slate of electors cast votes, and in states where Biden got more votes, the Democratic slate will cast their votes.
Each state has the same number of electors as its congressional delegation — one for each senator and congressperson. Oregon has seven electors, while Washington has twelve.
Forty-eight states, including Oregon and Washington, use a “winner-take-all system” where the candidates who received the most votes in the state receive all the state’s electoral votes.
Four years ago, some of Washington's electors didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton, even though she won the most votes in the states, making them “faithless electors.” This led to a court case in the U.S. Supreme Court that ruled against these electors and determined they must vote for whoever wins the most votes if mandated in state law.
Washington also passed a 2019 law allowing removal and replacement of faithless electors who refuse to abide by the popular vote.
This law did not come into play this year since Washington’s electors, all Democrats, voted today for Biden-Harris at the noon meeting.
Oregon’s seven electors met today at 1:30 p.m. at the state capitol to cast their votes for Biden and Harris.
Who are Oregon’s electors?
Oregon’s seven electors this year are the chair and vice chair of the Democratic Party, along with the chairs of the party’s five congressional districts. The electors include:
- Carla Lynn Hanson: Democratic Party of Oregon chairwoman, Portland
- Pete Lee: Democratic Party of Oregon vice-chairman, Portland
- Lawrence D. Taylor: First Congressional District chairman, Astoria
- Nathan Joseph Soltz: Second Congressional District chairman, Medford
- Leigha LaFleur: Third Congressional District, Portland
- Laura Gillpatrick: Fourth Congressional District, Eugene
- Sean Nikas: Fifth Congressional District, Salem
KGW spoke to Soltz, 23, who said he is Oregon’s youngest elector ever. The son of an El Salvador immigrant, Soltz said he is excited to be able to represent immigrant communities and Oregon Democrats.
“I'm sure it's exciting every four years, but now in particular, knowing what the importance of this vote means for so many people to end what has been a national nightmare for so many and bringing in an era led by a president and vice president who are truly compassionate and good people, it's a really special moment,” Soltz said.
The Democratic Party of Oregon supports the National Popular Vote interstate compact, which the legislature adopted last year to assign all of Oregon’s electoral votes to whoever wins the popular votes. Under this system, Clinton would have won the presidency in 2016 and Al Gore would have won it in 2000.
This compact will only take effect when enough states have joined it to award a majority of votes in the Electoral College. So far, it has been enacted by 15 states and the District of Columbia, equalling 196 votes out of the 270 votes needed.
Soltz said that he supports this compact and establishing a popular voting system for the presidency, instead of the Electoral College we see today.
“I think the Electoral College is an antiquated institution,” he said. “It was founded on racism and prejudice and bigotry and the suppression of so many people.”
But for now, the Electoral College remains. Results from all states and D.C. will be sent to Washington, D.C. and will be officially tallied in a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, where Vice President Mike Pence will preside.