State Electoral College members vote for Bush
December 13, 2004
CARSON CITY – Nevada’s last step in the presidential election – five Republican electors voting for President Bush – occurred Monday minus the tension four years ago when just a few vote switches anywhere in the nation would have changed the outcome.
Bush won re-election this year by capturing 286 electoral votes, compared with 252 for Democrat John Kerry. A candidate must get at least 270 votes.
“We did not have quite the same fanfare as in 2000,” Secretary of State Dean Heller said as electors Joe Brown and Milton Schwartz of Las Vegas, John Marvel of Battle Mountain, Beverly Willard of Carson City and Paul Willis of Pahrump voted for Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
“Does anyone want a recount?” Deputy Secretary of State Renee Parker joked, getting laughs from the state’s Electoral College members and others gathered in Heller’s office – with a line that probably would have produced groans in 2000.
“There’s a few straggling lawsuits out there, but I think we can handle those,” said Heller, who was just sued by a Democratic activist claiming he’s withholding election records that could bring Bush’s victory in this state into question. Bush defeated Kerry in Nevada by 21,500 votes, 418,690 to 397,190.
Marvel, a veteran rural Nevada assemblyman, said he and other electors got letters from Democrats urging them to defect and switch their votes to Kerry. “I filed my letter you know where,” he added.
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There’s no constitutional provision or federal law requiring electors to vote in line with the popular vote in their state. But a state law requires electors to follow the popular vote.
Willis said being an elector capped a political “Cinderella story” for him. Until now, his political activity was limited to his rural southern Nevada community but this year he got to be a Republican National Convention delegate as well as an elector.
Willis also said he hoped that Republican state lawmakers would reconsider a plan for a larger Legislature – a move that would increase rural Nevada’s political clout – as a payback for the overwhelming support from outlying areas that assured Bush’s Nevada victory.
The electoral vote in Nevada and elsewhere around the nation capped a hectic year that saw this state become the first to use electronic voting machines with paper printouts that can verify the results. An audit by Heller’s office showed no problems with the devices.
Barbara Reed, Douglas County’s top election official, showed up for the electoral voting, saying the changes required such a big effort by clerks and registrars around the state that “I just had to be here to see the conclusion. This is what we worked so hard for.”
Nevada’s vote came amid disputes elsewhere, including one in Ohio where dissident groups asked for a court review of the state’s close presidential race before electors in that state cast their ballots.
Kerry last week said that reported voting problems should be investigated to ensure there are no doubts in future elections. His campaign does not dispute that Bush won the election, but supports the recounts.
Nevada’s five votes, among 538 cast around the country by members of the Electoral College, will be sent to the President of the Senate, in this case Cheney, who on Jan. 6 will open and read them before both houses of Congress.
Each state is awarded electoral votes equal to its number of U.S. senators and House representatives. Electors are chosen by their respective political parties.