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The Electors Vote: West Virginia Unlikely to See Any GOP Defectors

Aired December 18, 2000 - 1:30 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: George W. Bush won the state of West Virginia, but electors there are not legally bound by the popular vote. In fact, 12 years ago a renegade West Virginia elector switched her vote to prove that point.

CNN's Bob Franken joins us now from Charleston, West Virginia.

Any renegades this time around, Bob?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Let me tell you, Margaret Leach in 1988 was the one who was the faithless elector who decided to make the point that West Virginia had no law against it. She voted for Lloyd Bentsen for president and Michael Dukakis for vice president just to make that point.

That will not happen this time. This is going to be the state that will be electing its first Republican non-incumbent to the presidency since 1928 when the state elected Herbert Hoover. There have been some second-term elections here: Richard Nixon, Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, but this is the first time since 1928 before the Depression since this state has elected a non-incumbent.

Now, in answer to your question, should we expect some faithless elector to suddenly jump ship? Do not bet on it. The Republicans are very, very nervous about this.

(APPLAUSE)

This is -- we have, as you can tell, a studio audience. And we also have sort of a Republican enforcement team. They won't say so, but what the Republicans have done is they've elected alternatives. Under West Virginia law, the electors themselves, all five of them, can in fact vote among themselves to replace an elector. And to quote one unidentified source, the first moment that I see the letter "G" on that presidential ballot, then there's going to be a quick meeting of the electors to replace that one. Not expected to happen. This is expected not to be the state where somebody might decide to switch his vote.

The order of business is going to be the governor of the state, Republican Cecil Underwood, will come in. He will make brief remarks. Then they will pass out the presidential elector ballot. Those will be signed by each of the five electors. Then the governor will read those results. CNN has learned that it will probably be 5-0 for George W. Bush. And then we will move on to the vice presidential nominee. The same type of procedure is going to occur. The governor will then finish. And then he will make remarks after he has identified Dick Cheney as the vice presidential candidate, and West Virginia will have moved on, not following its tradition of being part of the electorate that voted -- to vote for somebody else.

Now, the members of the Board of Electors here have all received thousands, literally thousands of e-mails encouraging them to switch their votes. According to the man who heads this group, all it has done is to stiffen their resolve and to work extra hard to make sure that nobody, in fact, makes history in a way that would just make the Republicans very upset indeed.

It's a full house here in the governor's reception room in the Capitol. They're waiting for the governor to make an appearance, and then they will begin what will amount to a very quick procedure -- Kyra.

Bob, out of curiosity, what happened to Margaret Leach? Usually defectors are ousted from the party, right?

FRANKEN: Interesting question. As a matter of fact, she went on, according to one of the people who we've talked to about this, to have her, quote, "15 minutes." But then she also went on to get into politics. And she is to this day a Democratic member of the House of Delegates in West Virginia. So her little statement has, in fact, resulted in a political work -- career.

PHILLIPS: All right, very interesting. Bob Franken, thank you very much.

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