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Why Sid Voorakkara's vote for Obama matters more than yours

November 20, 2008 |  2:02 am

America strives to uphold the proposition that all men, women and votes, are created equal. But the archaic Electoral College requires that a group of extra-equal Americans cast their ballots before a president can officially take office.

That's where Sid Voorakkara and 54 other Californians come in.

Political Button 2008

The nonprofit health advocate and former Democratic political operative from San Diego will travel to Sacramento on Dec. 15 to cast his Electoral College vote for Barack Obama, who captured all the state's 55 electoral votes by getting way more popular votes than the Arizona guy and Alaska gal on Nov. 4, as The Ticket reported last night.

(A refresher for our many loyal Ticket readers abroad and some at home who didn't do too well in American Government:

(A state's Electoral College votes are the total of that state's elected U.S. senators (two each) plus the total of its U.S. House members re-apportioned every 10 years by population. The latter ranges from the minimum of one in Montana and Alaska to 53 in California.

(Yes, we know, it is arcane. But, hey, it was very hot in Philadelphia when the Founding Fathers argued this all out back in the 1700s.)

Few people will actually notice the official ...

... Dec. 15 balloting, thinking that the new president was elected back on Nov. 4.

The California Democratic Party has released the list of merchants, politicians, union activists and others pledged to complete the constitutionally-required ritual that will turn the freshman Illinois senator into America's 44th president.

Among those assigned to cast a ritual paper ballot are Shasta County Supervisor Mark Cibula, California Professional Firefighters President Lou Paulson, Indian gaming advocate and tribal executive Mark Macarro, Rep. Maxine Waters' daughter Karen and Voorakkara.

The electors represent each of California's 53 congressional districts, with two others named for the entire state. They're chosen by Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, House members and -- in districts with Republican House members -- by the most recent Democratic congressional nominee.

The 37-year-old Voorakkara got his nod from 53rd Congressional District Rep. Susan Davis. He worked at the Democratic National Campaign Committee and his wife, Jennette Lawrence, once worked on Davis' congressional staff.

Both Voorakkara and his wife now are trying to effect policy closer to the front lines, in jobs that seek to expand access to healthcare.

Voorakkara recounts that he was talking to Davis staffers about how the Electoral College works when one asked him if he would be interested in serving as an elector.

"I am thrilled and honored to be part of this," he told The Ticket, "particularly with the historic nature of this election."

Republican senator and presidential candidate John McCain of Arizona and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger fly over the state where McCain and Sarah Palin would not get anywhere near the numbers of votes as Democrat Barack Obama

Electors will meet in each state Capitol on Dec. 15 to tabulate their votes.

The California group will complete separate paper ballots, first for Obama and then for Vice President-elect Joe Biden.

The separate votes are designed to avoid the confusion of too many Johns.

Four years ago, one Minnesota elector marked the wrong ballot and inadvertently named Sen. John Edwards, rather than Sen. John Kerry, for president.

Though electors are expected to vote for their party's nominee, they are not legally bound in all states to do so.

In 1988, one elector cast a presidential vote for Lloyd Bentsen, choosing the Texas senator and vice presidential nominee over the Democrats' actual presidential nominee, Michael Dukakis, the Massachusetts governor.

A District of Columbia elector, in a protest against the district's lack of voting status in Congress, declined to vote for anyone in 2000.

Although such renegades have not altered the official outcome in the Electoral College, they're not really appreciated by party chieftains, who call them "faithless electors."

Bob Mulholland, a campaign advisor to the California Democratic Party, said the state Capitol's tule fog is a more likely bugaboo than wayward electors.

"Sometimes it gets so thick that planes can't get in here," Mulholland said. "In 1996, we were missing a couple of people. So I was standing there giving instructions and the other electors named me to be a replacement [elector] for Bill Clinton.

But Mulholland didn't minimize the occasion. "It's really a very important moment," he said. "People can get very emotional about it."

-- James Rainey

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Photo: Associated Press