So, What's It Like Being in the Electoral College?

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The 25 electors down in Florida must be feeling pretty popular these days. All this fuss? Over little ol' me?

Yes, indeed. We're all waiting for the final recount from the Sunshine State, and assuming some consensus is reached by December 18, the Democratic or Republican slate of electors will be certified to vote in the state capital. Their ranks include Diane Glasser, a National Democratic Committeewoman from the Fort Lauderdale area, and Tom Slade, the former chairman of the Florida State Republican Committee.

And while the rest of us may be flustered by the Florida fiasco, Glasser and Slade are confident and ready to cast their ballots next month. For the party faithful who've been chosen as electors there's no such thing as "maybe" — their bags are already packed for Tallahassee. Florida electors are not required to vote for any particular candidate, but listening to these two, you don't get the sense either party is at all tempted by the opposition.

Q: Can someone be an elector more than once? For example, in 1996, say, and 2000?

Glasser: As far as I know, we can — I've been an elector before.

Slade: I've been an elector on four separate occasions.

Q:Do Florida's electors get paid?

A: No.

Q: Do you always meet in the same place to cast your votes?

A: Yes, we always meet in Tallahassee.

Q: Is there an actual ballot for each elector, or do you just raise your hands to vote?

A: Everyone signs an official ballot.

Q: Do you wear anything special or go through any special rituals when you cast your vote for president and vice president?

Glasser:No, it's really just normal people doing their job.

Slade: It's pretty routine, although this year will certainly feel like a more serious process than it ever has before. Of course, that makes sense — when Florida's electors gather in December, they will elect the next president.

Q: Do you have any sense that Florida might be left out of the electoral vote because nothing’s been determined by December 18?

Glasser: Not really, no. I feel confident everything will come out right in the end.

Slade: I would hate to see that happen. But if the votes are still tied up in courts, it's just another way of the Democrats trying to hijack this election. But I suppose even if they did vote without Florida's electors, it wouldn't be the end of the world. It wouldn't be the best beginning of a presidency either — but it would be a beginning.

Up in New York, where the outcome is already decided (in favor of Al Gore), New York's Democratic electors are starting to make plans for their winter trip to Albany, where, according to N.Y. secretary of state spokesman Scott Trent, the monetary rewards are paltry, but the sense of history is overwhelming.

Q: So, are New York electors paid for their services?

Scott Trent: Yes. They're paid $15 per day and 13 cents per mile. But for almost 100 years, the electors have donated their stipends to charity.

Q: Is there any kind of ceremony involved in the process of casting ballots?

ST:Oh, sure. In the morning, there's a formal introduction, and all the electors are brought in alphabetically. Then at noon, the secretary of state formally calls electoral college to order. After that, the electors have a roll call and pose for a group photograph. Then everyone has lunch in the capitol, and at 1:30 they reconvene for vote

Q: Do electors fill out ballots or give a show of hands?

ST: The electors each cast a ballot into a mahogany box with a brass latch, which is currently sitting on my desk, completely empty.

Q: What happens after the vote is cast?

ST: Federal code requires each state to send their results via the United States Postal Service, postmarked no later than December 19. Then, on January 6, the national tally takes place in Washington. And although there are seven copies of the results, only about half of them go to D.C. One copy goes to the president of the U.S. Senate (a.k.a. Al Gore), two go to the national archives, two are held in Albany by the state secretary of state, and the last two are held by the chief federal justice of the region. That's the case in every state; those are federal guidelines.