Why Illinois' electors say vote for Biden was more than symbolic

  • Julia Beckman

    Julia Beckman

  • Lauren Beth Gash

    Lauren Beth Gash

  • Kristina Zahorik

    Kristina Zahorik

 
 
Posted12/15/2020 5:00 AM

Casting Electoral College votes for president in Illinois -- mostly a symbolic gesture -- typically garners little notice, if any.

Illinois is a "winner takes all" state, meaning whoever wins the popular vote also secures the state's 20 electoral votes, which were cast ceremoniously Monday for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Biden-Harris secured 57.5% or 3,471,915 of the votes on Election Day in Illinois.

 

All 50 states already have certified election results ensuring Biden will be the 46th president. The Electoral College vote makes the result official.

Yet, for state electors -- selected from each congressional district by the political party whose candidate was victorious -- this year's vote was historic for a few reasons, said Kristina Zahorik of McHenry, a Democratic State Central committeewoman for the 14th Congressional District.

"Most people don't really need to pay attention to the Electoral College, and because of the drama and the strife surrounding this presidency, it has engaged people in the (civic) process unlike other years," said Zahorik, a first-time elector. "I hope that people have a better understanding and are more willing to be engaged in the process. If that is, in fact, the end result, then we are all better off."

It also was a momentous vote because Harris will become the first woman and first Black woman to be vice president.

"One of the things that I find particularly profound -- here we are at the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote, and we get to cast a vote for the first woman vice president," Zahorik said.

Misinformation and misrepresentation about election results spread by President Donald Trump and Republican supporters has undermined a long-trusted process, electors say.

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Veteran elector Julia Kennedy Beckman of Darien said many electors felt a sense of relief and closure upon casting their votes.

It took about an hour for the electors -- who were tested for COVID-19, socially distanced and wearing masks -- to cast their votes in person on the floor of the Illinois House of Representatives.

There were no protesters. No lengthy speeches. Just a calm exercise of democracy, said Beckman, who represents the 11th Congressional District.

"I'm fervently hopeful that this is the beginning of a new day," said Beckman, who cast electoral votes twice before for President Barack Obama. "This has been four very, very difficult years. We've got some sanity and a lot of experience coming into the White House. ... Even though this is very ceremonial, it's very necessary. We have done our part. It (now) has to go to Congress and be recognized. They certify the vote. We're kind of holding our breath hoping everything goes well."

Beckman said electors don't usually get much scrutiny during most presidential elections when the process works seamlessly with little doubt about the victor.

Abolishing the Electoral College process that many perceive as arcane would be one way to avoid future confusion about who won the election. That's what former state Rep. Lauren Beth Gash of Highland Park is working toward so voters can have a direct impact on selecting who leads the nation.

"I don't think that 538 electors around the country should decide who the president is for the people," said Gash, an elector representing the 10th Congressional District and chairwoman of the Lake County Democrats. Still, Gash said she cast her electoral vote because "our very democracy was at stake."

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