Monday, November 1, 2004

Spotlight may fall on Ohio electors

By Malia Rulon
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - In Ohio, the presidential election is up to 20 very important votes, which could be cast by people such as New Philadelphia resident Sandy Cox, Ohio Turnpike Executive Director Gary Suhadolnik or 26-year-old congressional candidate Capri Cafaro.

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Depending on which candidate wins Ohio on Tuesday, they could become members of the 2004 Electoral College that will meet at the state Capitol in Columbus at noon on Dec. 13 to vote on the next president.

There are 538 electoral votes among the 50 states, and it takes 270 electoral votes to win the presidency. In this year's race, Ohio's 20 votes could be critical to either President Bush or Democrat John Kerry winning.

"When you are actually one of the electors, you are pinching yourself to see if it's real," said Cox, a Democrat who has served on her city council for 14 years. "It's a real honor."

At least one potential elector, a Republican from West Virginia, has said he might withhold his vote for Bush, but neither Cox nor Suhadolnik plan to defect from their party's slate of electors.

"I'm a solid Republican voter," Suhadolnik said. "Look at the other cast of characters. There's no way I could vote for them, even on a bad day."

"Faithless electors," as defectors are known, are rare. Out of 21,000 electors in the nation's history, there have been only 10.

In Ohio, the electors tend to be party loyalists who have been active for years.

The only restriction is that they can't be federal officeholders, a rule that forced U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown to step down this year as a Democratic elector. Brown spokeswoman Joanna Kuebler said the congressman's selection was an oversight.

The rule does not disqualify Cafaro, a shopping center heiress challenging Republican U.S. Rep. Steve LaTourette. That's because if Cafaro wins the 14th District seat, she wouldn't be sworn in until after casting her vote as an elector.

Ohio has one elector for each of the 18 congressional districts plus two for the state at large. That's down from 21 electors in 2000 due to shifts in population across the country. The electors must be nominated by party officials and are screened by each party's executives.

Most states, including Ohio, operate on a winner-take-all system where the candidate who wins the most votes gets all the state's electoral votes. Only Maine and Nebraska dole out their votes proportionally to the popular vote.

The electors must vote separately for the president and vice president. Their votes will be sealed and sent to the president of the U.S. Senate, who will open them Jan. 6, and declare the winner.

The way the Electoral College system was set up means that a candidate who wins the popular vote still might not win the election. This has happened four times, including in 2000 when Bush won 47 percent of the vote and Democrat Al Gore got 48 percent.

"It was the genius of our fore founders that throughout our system of government, we have checks and balances. The Electoral College is an example of that," said state Sen. Kirk Schuring of Canton, a Republican elector. "If we didn't have the Electoral College, probably many of our smaller states wouldn't get any attention."

In 2000, Ohio's Republican electors selected Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. In 1992 and 1996, the state's Democratic electors chose former President Bill Clinton and Gore.

Ohio AFL-CIO President William Burga, among the 1996 electors, said the voting process didn't take more than 15 or 20 minutes.

"It's cut and dried and you get a nice certificate," Burga said.

In Ohio, each elector also will get $10 and be reimbursed for mileage.

Ohio electors for Bush, Kerry

Depending on the outcome of Tuesday's election, one of these groups will be called on Dec. 13 to award Ohio's 20 electoral votes. If President Bush gets more votes this week, the Republican Party electors will be called on; if Democrat John Kerry prevails, Democratic Party electors will vote for their candidate in Columbus on Dec. 13.

Republican Party electors

•  Alex Arshinkoff, Hudson

•  Phil Bowman, Jackson

•  Merom Brachman, Columbus

•  William DeWitt Jr., Cincinnati

•  Billie Jean Fiore, Newark

•  Robert Frost, Rocky River

•  Owen Hall, Celina

•  Katharina Hooper, Lancaster

•  Joyce Houck, Willard

•  David Johnson, Salem

•  Pernel Jones, Cleveland

•  Randy Law, Warren

•  Karyle Mumper, Marion

•  Henry O'Neill, Columbus

•  Kirk Schuring, Canton

•  Betty Jo Sherman, Elmore

•  Leslie Spaeth, Mason

•  Gary Suhadolnik, Strongsville

•  Elizabeth Wagner, Cincinnati

•  Carl Wick, Centerville

Democratic Party electors

•  Fran Albery, Upper Arlington

•  Joyce Beatty, Columbus

•  John Bender, Avon

•  Sherrod Brown (ineligible; replacement to be named)

•  Capri Cafaro, Hubbard

•  Sandy Cox, New Philadelphia

•  Charlotte Davidson, Cincinnati

•  Dean DePiero, Cleveland

•  David E. Giese, Vermillion

•  Brenda Griffith, Defiance

•  Robert Hamilton, Urbana

•  Richard Henry, Medway

•  Steve Huffman, Norwood

•  Terrence Larrimar, Columbus

•  Shannon Leininger, Loudonville

•  Christ Michelakis, Warren

•  William E. Moore, Woodsfield

•  Joe Rugola, Westerville

•  David Staley, Delaware

•  Ronnie Wardrup, Hamilton

Source: Ohio Secretary of State's Office.

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