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Morning Roundup: Newby on redistricting, electoral votes ceremony

Newly re-elected state Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby won't have to recuse himself from the redistricting case, his fellow justices have ruled.

N.C. casts electoral votes in an event that was big on ceremony but low on suspense.

How the electoral college works -- in one video

Politics 101 is now in session. Today's lesson the Electoral College. The journalism students at UNC-Chapel Hill posed an interesting question recently: What would happen if there was no electoral college?

The WhichWayNC project from the Reese News initiative at UNC produced an inventive and engaging video to explain it all. Take a look above.

Electoral College awards its votes

Democrat Barack Obama Monday officially won North Carolina's presidential vote Monday, in an electoral college ceremony that made up with history and emotion what it lacked in suspense.

The 15-members of the state’s Electoral College met in the Old House Chambers in the Capitol at noon — at the same time that similar groups were meeting in  the nation’s other 49 state capitals to choose a new president, Rob Christensen reports.

There was no suspense to the outcome. All 15 members were required by law to vote for Obama as a result of Obama’s narrow victory over Republican John McCain by a 49.7 to 49.3 percent last month.

But moment was packed with powerful emotions, as electors cast ballots to help make Obama the nation’s first president of black descent. The event packed not only the House chambers, but the overflow crowd nearly filled the nearby Senate chambers as well.

Virginia Tillett, an elector from Manteo and an African-American, urged the crowd to "remember the voices from your past."

Tillett, a 67-year old Dare County commissioner, said she remembered the voices saying "to hang in there...change is coming."

"I remember my grandmother who lived to be 89 years old," Tillett said later in an interview. "I heard people like my  deceased father-in-law who lived to be 100. I heard voices like my mother who is now 87. I heard all these voices say: 'Didn't I tell you?'"

GOP activist Rector dies

Robert Rector, a longtime Republican activist, who presided over North Carolina's last Electoral College, has died.

Rector, 63, a political science and history professor at Louisburg College, was active in the state GOP for 30 years. He presided over the Electoral College in 2004 which cast its ballots helping re-elect President Bush, Rob Christensen reports.

He created the N.C. County Chairman's Association and traveled across the state training activists and candidates. He is a member of the N.C. GOP Hall of Fame and was honored with the James T. Broyhill Award.

"Through his mentorship of younger Republicans, he was able to pass along the wisdom and tools for a new generation of committed conservatives," said Linda Daves, the state chair in a statement.

North Carolina is blue, AP says

Color your map blue. Barack Obama has won North Carolina's 15 electoral votes, at least according to the Associated Press.

The AP called the race today, leaving only Missouri gray on its red-and-blue map.

Of course, it's not really official until the State Board of Elections says so. The election will be certified in a few weeks after about 40,000 provisional ballots have been sorted through. For now, officially, Obama is ahead by some 13,000 votes.

But Johnnie McLean, deputy director of the State Board of Elections, said provisional ballots hardly ever change the outcome. Elections officials expect 65 percent of those ballots to eventually count.

"We were getting calls from the news media asking when we were going to call it, which I thought was funny," she said. "We've never done that."

News organizations call elections, she points out, but when a race is close by a razor thin margin, they hesitate to go out on a limb. State elections officials certify totals, which always takes time.

So you'll have to wait until Nov. 25 to get your final, final total.

But take comfort in this: North Carolina has apparently picked the winner. Meanwhile, the Show-Me state has John McCain leading by 5,800 votes with provisional ballots still to be counted.

Meek backs popular vote bill

Jerry MeekJerry Meek is backing the national popular vote.

The N.C. Democratic Party chairman has endorsed the idea of electing the president by popular vote by essentially abolishing the Electoral College, according to an e-mail from the National Popular Vote group.

Meek said a national popular vote would increase grassroots involvement, boost voter registration and improve voter turnout — three trends North Carolina witnessed during the recent Democratic primary — and that would be a good thing for the political process regardless of which party you support.

The e-mail also notes that Meek said the National Popular Vote bill in the legislature would be consistent with national party chairman Howard Dean's "50-state strategy" and make every state a battleground state.

The bill is currently on hold in a committee, so Meek's statement could be a signal that state Democrats are seriously considering it even though there are signs that North Carolina may be a battleground state this year.

The legislation would enter North Carolina into a compact to pledge its electors to the popular vote winner. It would only take effect once enough states signed to award the presidency.

North Carolina is uniquely positioned to pass the bill. Though it's gone for the Republican presidential candidate every year since 1976, the majority of both chambers and the governor are Democrats.

Last August, legislators considered divvying up the state's electors by Congressional districts.

Rand: Stay in college for now

Tony RandTony Rand doesn't want to drop out of the Electoral College.

Though a bill is before the legislature this session to join North Carolina to a national compact to elect the president by popular vote, the Senate majority leader told Dome he's not interested.

"I don't think that's really a short session kind of bill," he said. "I think that would be one where we'd want to have a little more time to think about the implications."

As a Democrat, Rand said he wishes North Carolina had not been a consistent red state since 1976.

"It pains me deeply, but that's not the system's fault," he said.

The Fayetteville senator reserved the right to change his mind, though, since he's set aside time this Sunday to watch the HBO movie "Recount" about the 2000 election troubles in Florida. If that doesn't do it, he said the fall elections might.

"Call me in November right after the presidential election," he said. 

Zane: Never mind North Carolina

Peder Zane says the primary was much ado about nothing.

The N&O ideas reporter notes on his blog, What's the Big Idea, that North Carolina hasn't gone for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1976.

Looking at the results of John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election, he says it's unlikely that the Democratic nominee — either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton — will win much more against John McCain.

"The fact is, Obama has wracked up his lead in Republican strongholds like North Carolina that he has little chance of carrying against John McCain," he writes. "Clinton, by contrast, has done much better in the states Democrats must win in the fall."

By Zane's math, Clinton has won 146 electors in eight formerly blue states, while Obama has won 82 electors in nine states and the District of Columbia.

"The fact remains, though she is behind in the count, Clinton has done better where it counts," he writes.

Skipping past the Electoral College?

Barry Fadem says North Carolinians shouldn't flatter themselves.

The state may be getting a lot of attention from Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton right now, but that will be over when the May 6 primary ends. 

The reason? North Carolina is not a "battleground state," so its votes won't matter.

"Even in California, everyday we read about the candidates coming into North Carolina to campaign in your primary," he told Dome. "The day after your primary? See ya."

The California attorney was in Raleigh today meeting with legislators about a state bill that he says would change that by switching to a national popular vote. The bill, which passed the Senate and will be in the House in the upcoming short session, is being championed by the National Popular Vote.

Unlike previous unsuccessful efforts to abolish the Electoral College, the bill would not attempt to amend the constitution. Instead, it would have North Carolina sign an interstate compact to award its electors to the winner of the national popular vote.

The compact would only take effect once enough states signed to award the presidency.

So far, Maryland, New Jersey and Illinois have signed, bringing the group to 46 out of 270 electoral votes needed, or one-sixth of the way towards its goal. North Carolina would give it another 15, or more than one-fifth of the way.

Back to college?

A bill to split the state's Electoral College votes could come back.

The legislation, which was pulled from the House floor and sent back to committee, could still be revived in the short session next year because it already passed the Senate.

Democrats will likely not favor passing the bill in the near future, since that could add fodder for California Republicans trying to pass a similar initiative to split the Golden State's electors along Congressional District lines.

But if the initiative makes it on the ballot and passes in that state's June 3 election, Democrats would likely look everywhere to make up an Ohio-sized loss of electors.

The legislature convenes May 13. Bill drafting director Gerry Cohen wagers the legislature would still be in session by mid-June — enough time to pre-clear the change with the U.S. Department of Justice.

"May, June or July would still be plenty of time before the presidential election," he said.

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