The ‘real vote’ for president takes place in St. Paul

by Howard Lestrud
ECM Political Editor

A former Minnesota Speaker of the House, Dee Long, says she was honored Monday to be a part of history as she cast what she called “a real vote” in discharging her duty as an elector during a special 2012 Electoral College Assembly.

Speaker Long, a resident of Minnetonka, was one of 10 Minnesotans who cast their official Electoral College votes for President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden during a patriotic ceremony in the State Capitol Rotunda in St. Paul.

The Minnesota electors, all DFLers, were casting their ballots during a time when 535 citizens were deciding, at the same time, who would be the next president of the United States.

Long said she has never missed a general election vote and was proud to be a part of the 39th Electoral College Assembly in Minnesota. Are changes needed with the Electoral College? Long answered “yes” and said as a high school freshman, she debated the affirmative point in calling for abolition of the Electoral College and replacing it with popular vote.

Another elector, Lucy Buckner of Burnsville, could not stop smiling after she signed the papers to officially elect Obama and Biden. Her political experience goes back to 1976 when she was a delegate to the National DFL Convention nominating Jimmy Carter for president and Minnesota’s own Walter Mondale for vice president. She said she remembers The Peanut Brigade and said she had candidates Carter and Mondale in her home.

After casting her vote, Buckner said it was “frosting on the cake” for her. She said she will be delighted to work another four years for President Obama. As Buckner signed documents, her daughter, Charlese Frizzel, captured the moment with her small point-and-shoot camera. “My mom is part of history,” Frizzel exclaimed.

Buckner came to Minnesota from Ohio in 2005. She has shaken President Obama’s hand but has not formally met him. “I have met Michele,” she said. Buckner plans on going to the inauguration on Jan. 20, 2013.

Other electors participating in the Minnesota assembly were: Jettie Ann Hill, Minneapolis; Joe Moren, Hibbing; Al Patton, Sartell; Shanti Shah, Eden Prairie; Rick Stafford, Minneapolis; Russ Warren, Mounds View; Janet Weir, Mankato and Paul Wright, Hutchinson.

Alternate electors were: Gabe Aderhold, Edina; Valerie Holthus, Andover; Liz Kalisch, White Bear Lake; Fred Knudsen, Owatonna; Colleen Nardone, Grand Rapids; Lil Ortendahl, Osakis; Katerine Speer, Elgin and Charlie Thomas, Lakeville.

Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie called the assembly to order at 12 noon. National and state colors were posted by Minnesota State Patrol Honor Guard troopers Kerry Johnson, Todd Zynda, Kristen Beyer and Ryan Marthaler.

The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Ma Lor, Minneapolis South High School senior and City of Minneapolis election judge trainee.

The invocation was delivered by the Rev. Peg Chemberlin, esecutive director of the Minnesota Council of Churches and immediate past president of the National Council of Churches. Rev. Chemberlin paid tribute to our soldiers and their families since the Civil War. She also asked for a way to protect our children as the president last Friday had asked. “Be a witness to our hope today, bless the efforts of this day and the days to come,” she said. “May the blessing of democracy be a blessing of the World of God,” she concluded.

Secretary of State Ritchie and Gov. Mark Dayton paid tribute to our leaders and history. Ritchie said the nation’s Electoral College was meeting for the 57th time since it met in 1789 after the Constitution was ratified and voters elected George Washington America’s first president.

Ritchie talked about the transfer of power from President George Bush to Barack Obama in 2009 and said it was done with a friendly handshake at the nation’s Capitol.

Thirty-six students of Todd Manninen’s ninth grade Buffalo High School class witnessed the historic events at the Capitol on Monday. “The context of the Electoral College is so abstract that being here in person puts a different perspective on everything,” said Manninen.

Student Jonathan Miller said the Electoral College symbolized how our founding fathers showed they cared for America by developing an election system. His fellow student Spencer Hardklotz said he learned what efforts were needed to assure everyone has the right to vote. Emily Linderholm said she was proud of those people today representing our state. “It’s real cool,” she said.

Following remarks by Gov. Dayton, Gary Poser, deputy secretary of state- elections, read a certificate of ascertainment. A roll call of all electors and determination of a quorum was pronounced by Ritchie. Beth Fraser, deputy secretary of state-operations, administered the oath to all electors.

Balloting was led by Ritchie and his staff. Each elector then signed a certificate of vote and a vote transmittal form.

The Electoral College assembly had a deep meaning, Ritchie said, in representing a tradition of Minnesota being first in voter turnout and first in election administration.