For the first time since 1969, and only the third time in history, Members of Congress were forced to vote on an objection to the certification of a state’s electoral vote for president. But in the end — as expected — it merely delayed the inevitable victory by the ticket of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.
In a House chamber filled with Members for the quadrennial, bicameral vote-counting ceremony, the roll call of states proceeded alphabetically without incident until it was Ohio’s turn. At that point, Rep. Stephanie Tubbs (D-Ohio) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) rose to challenge the state’s electoral vote.
During the debate that followed, each chamber discussed the challenge separately. Republicans took turns telling Democrats to “get over” the election, and Democrats recited stories of alleged voting irregularities while acknowledging that George W. Bush had more than enough votes to win.
Controversial film director Michael Moore’s name was invoked frequently. Several Republicans blasted Democrats for bringing forth the objection, labeling them members of the “Michael Moore wing” of the Democratic party.
For her part, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) mentioned the documentary maker in a more positive way. After one particularly scathing attack on the director of the anti-Bush documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11,” Waters dedicated her statement on the floor to Moore and thanked him for “educating” the public about the voting irregularities.
But most of the Democratic Representatives were more conciliatory. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) admitted that there was “absolutely no question George W. Bush won,” and said that the debate was merely a way of bringing up the issue of election reform to the forefront.
In the end, there was no doubt that the measure would be defeated. The House voted it down, 31-267, while the Senate defeated their version 1-74.
The only previous electoral-vote challenges came in 1969, due to a Richard Nixon elector who voted for Alabama’s segregationist governor, George Wallace, and in 1877, as part of a hotly disputed contest between Rutherford B. Hayes (R) and Samuel Tilden (D).
In this year’s final tally, George W. Bush received 286 votes, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) received 251 and Kerry’s running mate Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) received a single vote.
In what is sure to become a memorable trivia question, Edwards collected his one vote when one of Kerry’s electors from Minnesota accidentally voted for the vice presidential candidate twice on his ballot.
In 1988, West Virginia Democratic elector Margarette Leach voted for Democratic vice presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen for president, and for presidential candidate Michael Dukakis for vice president. Unlike the Minnesota elector’s switch, however, Leach’s was intentional, as a protest against the electoral college system.
This marks the second-consecutive election that the Democratic ticket has had tallied one electoral vote less than it should have garnered. In 2000, a District of Columbia elector pledged to Democratic nominee Al Gore abstained to protest the city’s lack of a vote in Congress.