While millions of Americans get the chance to witness the inauguration of a new president every four years on television, far fewer get to visit Washington, D.C. to see it in person. Even fewer-538, to be exact-get the chance to cast official ballots as electors. Glen Salisbury has now joined a select group of folks who have done both.
Salisbury, a Dysart resident and lifelong Democrat, underwent the process of becoming an elector last year when he decided to give it a shot after the district convention.
"I had been a delegate previously and when I heard about becoming an elector, I though that would be an interesting thing to try," Salisbury said. "There's one elector per congressional district in Iowa and one for each senator."
Glen Salisbury of Dysart recently took the trip of a lifetime when he attended the inauguration of President Barack Obama in January. Salisbury was also chosen as an elector—one of the 538 representatives that formally cast ballots for the presidency after the November election—and attended a ceremony in Des Moines on November 19 to cast his ballot. Here, Salisbury signs off on his ballot during the ceremony.
Under the Electoral College system, votes are cast for president and vice president by 538 individuals based on the voting results in their respective states. 538 is the number of representatives in the United States Congress and includes 435 representatives, 100 senators and three electors for the District of Columbia.
Under the 12th Amendment of the United States Constitution, adopted way back in 1803, the vote of the electors is what is used to determine who is president based on popular vote in each state. As of 2012, only Maine and Nebraska apportion their electoral votes based on congressional district-the other states are winner-take-all.
With the importance of the Electoral College, it would be assumed that many people would be competing for spots as electors. This year, at least, that wasn't the case.
"Someone from Tama County nominated me and I found out only two other people had even tried it," Salisbury said. "It's quite an honor, so I gave a speech and they ended up picking me."
Salisbury was selected at the district convention in Waterloo and officially received notice a few weeks before the election that he would need to come to Des Moines to cast his official ballot after Election Day.
"It's a pretty simple ballot," Salisbury said. "There is one spot for president and one for vice president, as you're required to write them in separately."
After being a part of one historical event, Salisbury got an unexpected surprise when, a few weeks later, an invitation to the inauguration arrived in the mail.
"I figured it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I'm going to do it," Salisbury said. "I think it was late November or early December when we were were notified again, and we were lucky enough to find a hotel within walking distance of the Capitol."
On January 20, 2013, Salisbury witnessed the second inauguration of President Obama, whom he had campaigned for during the 2008 election as well.
Seating was zoned, but not reserved, so Salisbury got a good view of things and enjoyed his experience in D.C.
"I'm glad we chose to go, it's a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing," Salisbury said. "It's kind of a ceremonial thing, but I was sure glad to be able to do it."