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Bush may not get Robb vote

By Tom Diana

If the presidential election results in an electoral college tie, it's possible that a West Virginia Republican, South Charleston Mayor Richie Robb, will have a decisive effect - by refusing to cast his electoral vote for President George W. Bush.  

Although it is not likely, Robb could end up casting an electoral vote that throws the election from Bush to U.S. Sen. John Kerry.

Robb raised questions about how he would vote in the electoral college, as well as some political eyebrows, when he publicly stated he may not cast his vote for Bush.

"I think President Bush needs to get the message from people across this country, including Republicans, that his strategy in national security and his economic policies need revisited," Robb said.

Robb, a Republican, was appointed as one of the five presidential electors for Bush during the West Virginia Republican State Committee's convention June 5. He was nominated by state party Chairman Kris Warner and confirmed by about 350 delegates, said party Executive Director Gary Abernathy.

Under state law, if Bush wins the popular vote in the Mountain State on Nov. 2, the five electoral college electors, selected by the Republican State Committee's convention delegates, get to cast their vote for president in the electoral college. That will happen Dec. 13 in Charleston in the governor's office, he said.

The U.S. Constitution requires a candidate for president to receive 270 electoral votes to win the election. Although not likely, it is possible that this election could end up in a tie of 269 electoral votes for Bush to 269 electoral votes for Kerry. If that happens, the U.S. Constitution outlines the process of choosing the president by a vote of members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Each House member votes within their state delegation to give each state one vote.

At this time, Robb has indicated that if he gets to cast his vote in the electoral college, it is unlikely he would cast his vote for Kerry or anyone else. Instead, he would withhold his vote.

Abernathy believes if Bush wins the popular vote, Robb would be legally compelled to vote for the president.

"I think the thing that Richie has to be aware of is he has a duty ... to carry out the will of the people," Abernathy said. "I've been talking to attorneys before, and they say that" voting in the electoral college "is a ministerial duty."

West Virginia state law governs how the state's electors in the electoral college function, Abernathy said, noting it requires Richie to cast his vote for Bush.

The electoral college "is not meant for the electors" of the electoral college "to decide the election," Abernathy said. "It's for the voters to decide the election."

The state party could hold another convention after the Nov. 2 election and before the Dec. 13 casting of electoral college votes and rescind the appointment of Robb, Abernathy said. Another person would likely be appointed by the party in Robb's place.

Prior to the Nov. 2 election, however, the party may not take any preemptive action against Robb's possible lack of support for Bush.  

"We may not decide to do anything until after the election," Abernathy said. "We're not in a hurry to do anything about it until after the election."

A comfortable majority in electoral votes by either Bush or Kerry would render Robb's single electoral vote inconsequential in terms of the presidential election outcome.

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