Oregon officially casts electoral votes for Biden and Harris
Oregon took its part Monday, Dec. 14, in the every-four-year ritual of casting the state's electoral votes for president and vice president.
Like most states, there were no surprises as the seven people chosen as electors — all state Democratic Party officials — voted for Democrat Joe Biden as president and Democrat Kamala Harris as vice president. The 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires separate votes for the offices.
They did so at a meeting that lasted less than 30 minutes in the Senate chamber at the Capitol in Salem.
It might have been just like any other meeting following the presidential election. But because of the coronavirus pandemic, the seven electors sat far apart at individual senators' desks — not at a common table — and they and the other officials present wore face masks.
There were no informal conversations, no handshakes, no hugs.
"What was once commonplace … has become life-threatening for all those vulnerable populations," Secretary of State Bev Clarno said.
In addition to the pandemic this year, Clarno said in brief opening remarks, Oregon also experienced devastating wildfires starting on Labor Day and racial justice protests sometimes resulting in violence.
"All of this was on top of a 2020 general election that was rife with misinformation leading to mistrust in our democracy and division among our citizens," she said. "Oregon faced adversity and turmoil in 2020. But one thing we were well equipped for was conducting a vote-by-mail election."
Oregon was the first state to experiment with mail voting, going back to 1981, and was the first to use it for all elections starting in 2000. Clarno was speaker of the Oregon House when the state became the first to use it for a statewide candidate election in 1995 and 1996, after the resignation under pressure of U.S. Sen. Bob Packwood.
"Many Oregonians do not know any other way," she said. "While many states conducted elections by mail this year because of the pandemic, Oregon provided advice and counsel to our sister states looking to follow our pioneering spirit. We have one of the most accessible systems in the country."
The tally of the Nov. 3 election was made final on Dec. 3. Clarno said Oregon recorded more than 2.4 million ballots, a record.
The Biden-Harris ticket won 56.5%, and the Republican ticket of President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, 40.4%. Three minor-party candidates won most of the rest of the votes. Oregon has voted for Democrats for president since 1988.
Clarno, a Republican, was named secretary of state by Democratic Gov. Kate Brown in 2019 after the death of Republican Dennis Richardson from cancer. Clarno chose not to seek a full term; she will be succeeded Jan. 4 by Democrat Shemia Fagan of Portland, who was elected Nov. 3.
Clarno, 84, was a state representative from Redmond from 1989 to 1997. She was House speaker in 1995 and 1996, and the Republican nominee for state treasurer in 1996. She was elected to the Senate in 2001 and became Republican leader in 2003, when the Senate was tied 30-30. It was she and Brown, then the Senate Democratic leader, who negotiated the power-sharing agreement that thrust Democrat Peter Courtney into the Senate presidency.
Also taking part Monday were Michelle Teed, the acting director of the state Elections Division, and Chief Justice Martha Walters, who swore in the seven electors.
For the record, they are Carla "KC" Hanson of Portland, Democratic Party of Oregon chair; Pete Lee of Portland, state party vice chair; Larry Taylor of Astoria, 1st District committee chair; Nathan Soltz of Medford, 2nd District chair; Leigha LaFleur of Portland, 3rd District chair; Laura Gillpatrick of Eugene, 4th District chair, and Sean Nikas of Salem, 5th District chair.
Before the official vote, Hanson released this statement:
"The 306 Electoral College votes won by the Biden/Harris ticket across the country is a culmination of years of work done by Democratic volunteers, activists, organizers, staff, and regular Oregonians and Americans who responded to the outcome of the 2016 election with a determination to end Trump's dark vision for our nation.
"Joe Biden received a record 81 million votes — winning decisive states by tens of thousands of votes, and the popular vote by a historic 7 million votes. Trump's incessant whining and Republicans' frivolous lawsuits cannot and will not overturn the will of voters.
"While I'm honored to take part in today's ceremonies, the Electoral College is a relic of a bygone era, a reminder of our nation's racist beginnings, and over 230 years later remains a shameful vestige of slavery within our democracy. And as we've been reminded multiple times over the last 20 years, the Electoral College can lead to undemocratic results where the candidate who receives the most votes is not the candidate who ultimately wins.
"We look forward to the day when the necessary number of states join Oregon in the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, allowing us to live up to our democratic ideals and elect our president and vice president by popular vote.
"Today, we've begun the final chapter of the 2020 election. And while it's important to celebrate our victories, we're already looking toward what we must do to address the challenges we face in the days, months, and years ahead. From COVID relief and economic recovery, to tackling the climate crisis, to mending many of the rifts that have emerged in our democracy and our communities, we are stronger because we face these challenges together."
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