OLYMPIA – No surprises or stray votes prevented Democratic voters in Washington from picking Joe Biden as the country’s next president on Monday afternoon.
From the socially remote confines of the Senate chambers, a sigh of relief and modest applause followed Secretary of State Kim Wyman’s announcement that the state’s 12 Electoral College ballots were cast for President-elect Biden and Senator Kamala Harris. The Democratic ticket won Washington with nearly 58% of the popular vote.
“The ceremony and tradition of this meeting marked the end of one of the most controversial elections of our time,” Wyman said, his voice shaking with emotion. “As some people continue to question this election, average citizens of all walks of life will mobilize today to exercise their responsibility to fulfill their constitutional duty.
Jack Arends, 64, of Everett, was one of 538 voters nationwide with that honor and responsibility on Monday. As the only voter in Snohomish County, the self-proclaimed grassroots activist represented the 2nd Congressional District on his mission to Olympia. With a potentially life-threatening medical condition, he’s just glad he had the opportunity.
“It was something I never planned on, but the moment and the issues kind of came together and I thought it was something I had to do,” he told the Daily Herald last week.
As the chaos of COVID-19 canceled party conventions and caucuses, Arends, a constituency committee officer for two decades, recognized an opportunity to return to normal voting.
Three of the “unfaithful voters,” including Bret Chiafalo of Everett voted for former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and one supported Faith Spotted Eagle, a Native American chief from South Dakota.
Within days of being selected as a voter, Arends’ role took on added significance. Doctors told him that a heart valve problem was inoperable, he said. After 64 years, Arends’ days were numbered.
Still, he had no hesitation about the job he still had to finish.
“I don’t know how long I’m going to have on this earth, but I’m going to make it count while I’m here and that includes being a voter,” Arends told the Herald before the proceedings. “It’s that last box I want to tick – I’m determined to tick it.”
Dressed in a suit and a Kangol brimmed cap, Arends entered the Senate floor in a wheelchair and was greeted with scattered applause from his fellow voters.
With pomp and circumstance at a minimum, Wyman, a Republican, and Governor Jay Inslee, a Democrat, briefly addressed voters.
“What we are going to prove today is that masks do not stop the voices of democracy,” said the governor.
Wyman then began the heavily scripted process of casting and confirming the selections.
Forgoing the ceremonial feathers used to vote voters, Arends used a permanent marker to vote for Democrats. Tired of President Donald Trump signing legislation the same way, Arends figured he would use a Sharpie to deliver his own bold and indelible message: Biden won.
Despite the weekend’s clashes between anti-fascist protesters and right-wing supporters, including a shootout on the Capitol campus – a 25-year-old man from Shoreline was arrested in connection with the incident – proceedings have come to light. unfolded without a hitch.
Once the votes were cast, voters had the opportunity to speak.
“Today is a chance to begin the end of the Trump administration. I was happy to do my duty… ”said Arends. “It will be up to others to do the biggest work of rebuilding our nation as my health deteriorates.”
After his remarks, Arends cried silently, his head against the wooden desk.
“It’s a big weight off my shoulders to be able to do this,” he said. “I feel happy doing what we were elected to do.”