The ceremonial procedure took place on the floor of the California Assembly where electors gathered from across the state along with numerous elected officials. The media turnout for the event was somewhat lower than normal because the Republicans chose the same time slot to announce their budget priorities. The highlight of the ceremony came in the opening comments by California Assembly Speaker Karen Bass. Speaker Bass is the first black woman to serve as speaker in California.
She told the electors that they were participating in one of the nation’s older rituals. The Electoral College system was devised during the Constitution Convention. At that time, she told the crowd, she would have been considered three-fifths of a person. As a woman she would not have even a vote until less than a hundred years ago.
It was a moment of reflection for the entire crowd, who probably take this fact for granted these days.
“It is certainly a sign of the progress that is possible that I am welcomed to the task of officially electing Barack Obama of Illinois as the next president of the United States.”
Before casting their ballots, the electors went through the process of selecting a chair. The chair was David Sanchez, who is the head of the California Teacher’s Association.
The electors vote by ballot and they vote separately for President and Vice President.
There were no surprises as both President-elect Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden received all 55 votes from a crowd that was filled heavily with Democratic Party loyalists.
Upon announcing the result for the Presidential ballot, the room erupted into long and sustained applause.
Obama defeated Republican John McCain by a 24-point margin in California on Election Day. He received 61 percent of the vote compared to just 37 for McCain.
This is not the official end of the Presidential election. Congress will tally the outcome of Monday’s Electoral College vote in a joint session scheduled for January 6. Obama will finally be sworn in as the nation’s 44th president on January 20, 2009.
—David M. Greenwald reporting