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Elector Casts Blank Ballot in Protest

December 19, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Vice President Al Gore apparently lost a vote in the Electoral College on Monday when an elector for the District of Columbia cast a blank ballot.

The move caught city officials off guard. They first said the elector involved eventually signed a Certificate of Vote certifying the votes for Gore, and faxed a copy of it to news organizations. The certificate is the legal document the district must, under federal law, submit to the Archivist of the United States.

However, Peggy Armstrong, a spokeswoman for Mayor Anthony A. Williams, said late Monday that the certificate would be amended Tuesday, giving Democrat Gore just two of the district’s three electoral votes.

Elector Barbara Lett-Simmons, 73, signed the document ``for the colonist of D.C″ and said she chose not to vote to protest the district’s lack of voting status in Congress. ``Taxation without representation is tyranny,″ she said.

She gave a brief speech after the votes, addressed to her ``fellow colonists.″

The other two electors, Nadine Winter, 65, and William Simons, 76, cast their votes for Gore, who won the district but lost the national election to Republican George W. Bush. Were Lett-Simmons’ vote not counted, the tally would be Bush 271 electoral votes to 266 for Gore.

Afterward, Lett-Simmons said people have a right to call her a ``faithless elector″ but she has a right to vote her conscience.

She said she was ``absolutely comfortable″ that her action would not affect the election.

Beverly D. Rivers, secretary of the District of Columbia, said Lett-Simmons signed the Certificate of Vote certifying three electoral votes for Gore and running mate Sen. Joseph Lieberman.

Lett-Simmons’ protest surprised Democratic officials who were celebrating the 10th time the city had the opportunity to vote in the Electoral College. District residents have been able to vote in presidential elections since 1964, but they have only a delegate to Congress who cannot cast floor votes.

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