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Terminally ill Washington elector breaks down after casting Biden vote: ‘I was glad to do my duty’

Jack Arends was overwhelmed with emotion after registering his vote for President-elect Joe Biden on Dec. 14 in Washington. (Video: The Washington Post)
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As Washington state elector Jack Arends registered his vote for President-elect Joe Biden on Monday, his voice cracked with emotion. Then, Arends, 64, told the chamber that a doctor last month had diagnosed him with an untreatable, terminal condition.

“[In] November I was told there is no more medical treatment that can help me so it was important for me to do this one thing that I could do while I still can,” said Arends, who wore a black beret reading, “Play Nice.”

After his speech, Arends placed his microphone on the desk, crossed his arms over his face and sobbed breathlessly as another elector came to his side to comfort him.

Arden’s emotional display in the Olympia Capitol came as the state’s 12 electors unanimously voted for a Democratic ticket that won 58 percent of the votes in Washington, highlighting the personal sacrifices of the 538 electors who gathered nationwide on Monday to finalize the presidential race. Since Election Day, many election workers have reported facing violent threats and protests from conspiracy theorists for doing their job.

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Arends, a retired aviation industry analyst and self-described grass-roots activist living in Everett, Wash., told the Everett Herald last week that a doctor had diagnosed him with an inoperable heart valve issue just days after he was selected as one of 12 electors in the state.

Although his time is limited, Arends, a Democrat, said he made a promise to himself that he would finish his “duty.”

“I don’t know how much time I am going to have on this Earth, but I am going to make it count while I am here and that includes being an elector,” Arends told the Herald. “It’s that one last box I want to check — I am determined to check it.”

So, on Monday, dressed in a suit and using a wheelchair, Arends entered the chamber carrying two Sharpie markers to cast his vote. He had chosen a marker instead of a traditional quill pen as a rebellious act against President Trump, who has often used a marker to sign proclamations and legislations, the Herald reported.

Following the votes, each elector addressed the chamber. When it was his turn, Arends used part of his speech to argue that the electoral college system “is not great,” but that it is the only system currently in place.

“Today is the chance to begin the end of the Trump administration,” he said. “I was glad to do my duty … Had he won a second term, there is no limit to the damage he could have done to the world.”

Then, about two minutes into his speech, Arends broke the news to the chamber about his health condition.

“It will be up to others to do the hard work of rebuilding our nation as my health is failing,” he said before abruptly ending his speech and setting his head down on his desk to weep. Julian Wheeler, a fellow elector, stood up to pat his back as the rest of the chamber clapped.

Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman (R), who presided over the session, also stood up to thank Arends for his service.

“I am deeply touched by your emotion and I’m so glad that you’re here and that you are able to be one of the electors representing our state,” Wyman said. “It’s an honor to be in the room with you.”