Brown County resident tapped for Electoral College

If Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine should carry Indiana, a Brown County man will head to Indianapolis in December to cast a vote as a member of the Electoral College.

Herb Brown, a lifelong Democrat, has never been an elector before. Having moved here in 2008, it was fairly unlikely he ever would be.

Brown County has such a small delegation at the state convention, the last time Brown County even sent a delegate to the national Democratic convention was in 1948, he said.

This election cycle, Brown said he found out that no one had filed for the elector seat from Brown County’s district. So, he tossed his hat in the ring.

States receive one vote in the Electoral College for each of their seats in Congress. So, with nine representatives and two senators, Indiana has 11.

Each party that has a candidate for president on the ballot in Indiana — including write-in candidates — has appointed a slate of 11 elector candidates. Electors are selected by their party at the state convention and sworn to vote for their party’s “ticket” of a vice president and president.

When an Indiana resident votes for Clinton and Kaine, they are actually voting for Brown and the 10 other Democratic elector candidates to cast ballots, said Matthew Kochevar, co-general counsel for the Indiana Election Division.

Indiana awards all of its electoral votes to one candidate, so if Republican Donald Trump were to carry the state, Brown and his fellow Democratic electors would not be called upon.

If the Democratic slate of electors takes the majority of the popular vote statewide, the group will meet in the House of Representatives chamber at the Indiana Statehouse at 10 a.m. Dec. 19, Kochevar said.

The entire process is very formalized and codified in state and federal law, Kochevar said. It is also open to the public, who can watch the entire process from the gallery.

All votes of the electors of the various states and Washington, D.C., will be counted before a joint session of Congress on Friday, Jan. 6. A candidate needs a majority of the 538 total Electoral College votes — at least 270 — to win the presidency.

“It’s part of our democratic process and something that I’ve always been interested in,” Brown said of the Electoral College. “And this may well be a historic election.”

Brown is currently a precinct committeeman for Washington 1 in Brown County. It was a post he sought at the urging of friends who knew he was an active Democrat, he said.

For him, involvement in the process is an opportunity for personal growth and expanding his own perceptions and understandings. Even at the state convention, there was a lot to discover, he said.

“It is an opportunity to listen to the candidates and hear what they have to say,” he said. “We have several different caucuses within the state convention: there’s a Latino caucus, there’s an African-American caucus — several different groups.

“It’s an opportunity to exchange ideas with your fellow Democrats,” he said.

There are also opportunities to engage in work groups and discussion groups, either to learn or to share knowledge.

Beyond viewpoints, there are things to learn about the political process as well, Brown said.

“I have always been interested in what goes into getting out the vote, and as time has passed, they have become more and more sophisticated,” he said.

At the convention, he had the opportunity to see the latest methods for measuring voter participation and identifying voters to encourage to go to the polls, he said.

“There’s a lot of strategy that goes on. A lot of effort goes into trying to find the best way to turn out your supporters,” he said.

But ultimately it all comes down to essential civic duty for Brown.

“I think it’s important for people to involve themselves in what is the fundamental tenant of our American democracy, which is the right to vote and participate,” he said.

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Ben Kibbey is a Brown County transplant from the cornfields of central Ohio. He covers county government, business, outdoors, sports and general news.