Ex-teacher learns Electoral College lesson
By Don Davis, Forum Communications
ST. PAUL – Joe Moren taught high school students about the Electoral College for 40 years, but he really came to understand it Monday when he cast a vote for Barack Obama.
The 82-year-old Hibbing man, one of Minnesota’s 10 electors, has been active in Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party politics most of his life, but usually not in the spotlight, saying: “I enjoyed being a king-maker rather than a king.”
When he cast his vote Monday, he became the ultimate “king maker” along with 534 other electors around the country. They decided, officially, that Obama was re-elected.
Lil Ortendahl of Osakis watched as Moren and others voted for Obama. She was there herself a few years ago, but on Monday was on standby as an alternate elector.
The Electoral College “is important for democracy and everyone feels part of the government,” she said after a formal hour-long ceremony in the Minnesota state Capitol.
While the Electoral College is part of the country’s election process, Ortendahl and others wonder if it would be better to make presidential elections better reflect the voters.
The U.S. Constitution established the institution, with one elector for each member of a state’s congressional delegation. While it did not happen this year, it is possible that a candidate who gets the most popular votes can lose in the Electoral College.
Each party picks electors, and in Minnesota all electoral votes go to the candidate who wins.
Being an elector is an honor for party loyalists.
Gov. Mark Dayton told those gathered to see the Electoral College vote in the state Capitol rotunda that the American system is an example for the world, as despite campaigns coming from opposite political sides, the turnover of power always is peaceful.
Moren agreed, citing countries like Syria, where it may take violence to change leaders.
As a teacher in Wisconsin for five years and 35 years in Hibbing, Moren taught about the Electoral College from a textbook. But, he said, it took on more meaning when he took part.
The teacher in him led to a minor issue Monday. When he was given the first ballot, it listed both Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, so as a teacher he followed instructions and voted for both. However, the ballot was supposed to be just for president, so his first effort was tossed out and he cast his real vote on a second ballot, one which is headed to the National Archives.
While Ortendahl said she was proud to be part of the process, “I have a little trouble with it.”
Minnesota’s winner-take-all system is not fair, said the woman who has been involved in politics for 45 years. If the popular vote is divided, the Electoral College vote should be, too, she said.
The U.S. Constitution leaves it up to states to decide such details.
State legislators from both major parties told reporters before the Electoral College met that the institution should be changed, saying the current system gives some states more power than others.
“The state of Minnesota is not responsible for preserving the political power of voters in Ohio, Florida and a shrinking number of battleground states,” Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, said.
He is part of a movement known as National Popular Vote that is pushing a bill to require electoral votes to be granted based on popular vote.