Members Cast Ballots on a Day Of Big Emotions

Maryland electors Susan Lee, Elizabeth Bobo, A.G. 'Bobby' Fouche and Christopher Reynolds certify votes.
Maryland electors Susan Lee, Elizabeth Bobo, A.G. 'Bobby' Fouche and Christopher Reynolds certify votes. (By Lois Raimondo -- The Washington Post)
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By Tim Craig and John Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The 26 members of the electoral college in Virginia, Maryland and the District cast their ballots for Barack Obama to become the nation's first black president yesterday, a procedural formality that produced a tangible wave of emotion.

Electors in all three jurisdictions, as well as those in state capitals across the nation, followed a centuries-old script for this formal step in the selection of an American president.

The electors walked into a room, named officers and then held a voice vote on their choice for president and vice president. With Virginia voting Democratic this year for the first time since 1964, yesterday was the first time in 44 years that electors in all three jurisdictions were saying the same names. "Barack Obama of Illinois" and "Joe Biden of Delaware."

Electors from all of the jurisdictions spoke of the historic significance of the event.

"Did I expect such a day? I really did expect to see it. Maybe not this year, but thank goodness it was this year," said D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser (Ward 4).

Jerry S. Cooper, a long-standing member of the D.C. Democratic State Committee who has resided in the District since 1930, recalled his mother.

"She would be indeed honored and privileged to see me here today. I think it's historic," Cooper said.

In Maryland, about 150 people looked on as the state's 10 electors cast votes for Obama. Michael Barnes, a former congressman and one of the electors chosen by the state Democratic Party, reflected on how far race relations had advanced since his childhood in Montgomery County.

Barnes, 65, said Obama would not have been allowed in a movie theater, a bowling ally or "a decent restaurant where blacks and whites could dine together."

"What we're doing here today was unthinkable," Barnes said.

The ceremony assumed an especially emotional tone in Richmond.

Virginia's 13 electors cast their ballots in the House chamber, a few hundred feet from the old House chamber, where the Confederate Congress met during the Civil War.

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