Washington's Electors More Faithless Than Any Other State; They Should Pay

Faithless electors used to be a very rare thing, and this year, Washington’s were more faithless than any other state’s
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The Washington Secretary of State’s Office has sent $1,000 fine notices to the four state “faithless electors” who voted for presidential candidates other than the one who won the state, Hillary Clinton. Presidential electors are selected by state parties and their ballots actually determine who is president. They are supposed to vote for the candidate of their party who wins the most votes in their respective states. In Washington, they sign a pledge to do just that. Failing to do so results in a $1,000 fine.

It is apparently the first time in some 40 years such a fine has been enforced. Faithless electors used to be a very rare thing, and this year, Washington’s were more faithless than any other state’s.

Happy New Year, guys. You owe a grand a piece!

That’s not much, really. Certainly it wasn’t enough to deter the four Washington electors who decided to zig instead of zag. Before the election, one elector, Robert Satiacum, Jr., announced there was no way he would support Hillary Clinton if she won the state. He was a Bernie Sanders backer. He’s also an activist, radio host and outspoken on Native American causes like Standing Rock. Democrats worried that in a close electoral college race, his failure to support Clinton could tip the Electoral College vote to Donald Trump. Democrats were apoplectic at the prospect.

It was bad enough Vladimir Putin was busy trying to undermine the faith of the American people in the electoral process. Or that the GOP has undertaken a nationwide campaign to make it harder for folks to vote—especially the poor and people of color. It’s lousy that our national turnout is so low—the worst in 20 years; nearly half of eligible voters (45%) passed on voting at all. Add not being able to count on the electoral college into the mix and you have the ingredients for a toxic stew.

Satiacum’s possible apostasy turned out not to matter, numbers-wise. Clinton won Washington, but losing electoral votes here wasn’t going to change the election outcome as Donald Trump had more than enough to win. Satiacum voted for Faith Spotted Eagle, a Native American activist. Three other state electors also bolted, voting for retired general and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a prominent African American Republican. That seemed oddly symbolic. Powell is remembered by many as the guy who went to the United Nations and gave false information justifying the invasion of Iraq. Why were Democratic electors supporting that guy? Perhaps because he was one of the more prominent Republicans to support Clinton and oppose Trump.

While many don’t like the Electoral College, it is part of our constitutional system. I’d be happy to see it go away. But Clinton won the Washington state Democratic primary, and more crucially she won the general election here. The majority of voters wanted Hillary Clinton for president and she should have received all 12 of the state’s electoral votes. Instead, a third of Washington’s electors threw Clinton’s Washington voters’ ballots in the trash bin. They chose to make personal political statements instead of reflecting the will of the voters.

Civil disobedience is legitimate as an act of conscience. But if you break the rules, taking the consequences is part of the moral act. For their votes to mean something, they should pay the price. I hope they promptly pay their bills. And next time, state Democrats should do a much better job of selecting—and vetting—its electors.

Bellevue's University Bookstore to Close, but the East Side Keeps Its Edge

Bellevue's University Bookstore to Close, but the East Side Keeps Its Edge

Bellevue is in many ways more “urban” than Seattle now—certainly, it’s racially more diverse, which is complete flip from the white-bread suburbs of the ‘60s and ‘70s
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Berger supervising a photo shoot of Bill Gates and Brian "The Boz" Bosworth in 1988

The news that the University Bookstore is closing its downtown Bellevue location next month is hardly big news. Bookstores have had to close, move and adjust to changes in the book biz. Elliott Bay relocated from Pioneer Square and now thrives on Capitol Hill. Amazon—blamed for driving many small independents out of business—has opened a dead-tree bookshop in University Village and another in Portland. Change happens.

Still, the news spurred memories of the not-so-distant past when the U-Bookstore’s move to Bellevue in the early ‘80s was part of a wave of urbanization—you could call it the “Seattleization”—of the Eastside suburbs. Back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, Bellevue became of the focus of what became known as “Edge City” city building. Skyscrapers popped up, much to the surprise of Seattleites who looked east and saw high rises. Between them and the Cascades.

There were other signals. Microsoft moved to Bellevue in 1979, before settling in Redmond, and became the vanguard of the Silicon Forest. In 1976, Starbucks opened its first outlet in Bellevue, and today the oldest Starbucks in Bellevue sits in a strip mall across from Bellevue Square on NE 8th and just around the corner from the U-Bookstore. Crossroads shopping center revamped as a kind of suburban mall-meets-Pike Place Market with a newsstand, bookstore, public chessboard, and a catalyst for social services. The demand for “third places” in the suburbs—often criticized as a desert of “no place” cul de sacs—was growing.

That growth was nurtured by other developments. In 1976, Bellevue got its own daily newspaper, the Journal-American, so Starbucks goers had first-rate local news and columns to read over their lattes each morning. In the late ‘80s, the statewide magazine I worked for, Washington, which had launched in Bellevue in the mid-80s, did a cover story on the fact that two major national celebrities were based on the Eastside: Bill Gates and Brian “The Boz” Bosworth. One seemed to reflect a new braininess in the ‘burbs, the other a kind of brazen, bleached Seahawks celebrity whose attitude suggested an in-your-face approach far different from quiet good guys suburban dads like Steve Largent. It seemed like the Eastside was an Edge City gaining some edginess.

In 1990, Seattle Weekly launched a sister paper on the Eastside. I was the editor and publisher and we arrived because we saw the changes of the ‘70s and ‘80s—the spread of cafes, the yearning for arts, the demand for urban amenities and services—increasing. An essential part of that was reflected in moves by chains like University Bookstore were a sign that a new kind “psychographics” was emerging, a population that wanted something more than split-level, bedroom community isolation. A population of readers, for one thing, that didn’t want to have to cross a bridge for culture, or good coffee.

The trend has been a steady, prosperous for Bellevue and the Eastside. Bellevue is in many ways more “urban” than Seattle now—certainly, it’s racially more diverse, which is complete flip from the white-bread suburbs of the ‘60s and ‘70s. It is now a majority minority city—the largest in the state!

Bellevue used to be Ronald Reagan country, but has been shifting “blue” politically since the early ‘90s. Light rail is coming, the cranes are still building, and the Edge City is now a big city in its own right. The seeds for that vision were planted long before the University Bookstore came to downtown Bellevue to serve hungry minds.

But the U-Bookstore’s move to Bellevue in the ‘80s was like an indicator species signaling to Seattleites and Eastsiders that the Puget Sound ecosystem was shifting. And boy, have they.