Idaho's portion of the Electoral College met today at noon, and the four electors, John Erickson, Melinda Smyser, Ben Doty and Darlene Bramon, dutifully cast their ballots for Republicans John McCain and Sarah Palin. Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, who was presiding along with Gov. Butch Otter, said, "They are free to vote their conscience." But all four followed the state's election results. In fact, Idaho's never had a "faithless elector," Ysursa said, which is the name for one who chooses to vote differently from what the election results dictate, but other states have. He and Otter recalled a Washington state elector who refused to vote for Jerry Ford, instead casting a ballot for Ronald Reagan. And Ysursa said in 2000, one Washington, D.C. elector refused to cast her vote in protest of the national election results, though Al Gore had carried the district.
That was a year when much attention was focused on the Electoral College proceedings, Ysursa said, because the results were so close that any state could have thrown the election to Gore or Bush in the process. The popular vote nationally had gone to Gore, but the electoral college edge had gone to Bush. "We had Karl Rove on the phone to Phil Reberger," Ysursa recalled. "Everybody was worried." Idaho's election results weren't in doubt, though. "If they called us, they were worried about every state."
Each party with a candidate for president on the ballot in Idaho appoints four electors, whose names appear on the ballot; the group from the victorious party casts the Electoral College ballots. If Barack Obama had carried Idaho, the electors today would have been Cecil Andrus, Chris Bray, Bethine Church and Dave Whaley.
Ysursa said some states have laws to fine or otherwise penalize faithless electors. "Idaho's never had that," he said, and it's never had a problem. "The parties submit these," he said. "These are good, staunch Republican workers."