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Why One Wisconsin Elector Felt A Wave Of Emotions Casting His Vote For Biden-Harris

Gov. Tony Evers chaired Wisconsin's 2020 Presidential Electoral Meeting Monday at the Capitol.

Wisconsin along with each other state took a giant step in the presidential election process Monday. The state’s electors were among those nationwide casting ballots for President-Elect Joe Biden.

Wisconsin’s ten electors — one for each of the eight House seats and two U.S. Senate districts — convened or rather scattered throughout Gov. Tony Evers’ office, distanced and masked.

Evers was ceremoniously voted in to chair the proceedings by Ben Wikler, chair of Wisconsin’s Democratic Party. “Gov. Tony Evers will now serve as chairperson of the Electoral College and Lt. Mandela Barnes will serve as secretary,” said Wikler.

The room fell to a hush as electors pulled out pens and opened packets. After only 10 minutes, Evers read the result.

“It is my distinct pleasure to announce that Wisconsin casts its ten electoral votes for President of the United States of America to Joseph R. Biden, Jr.; and for Vice President of the United States of America ten electoral votes also for Kamala D. Harris,” proclaimed Evers. “We made it.”

Electors then signed a series of certificates — some bound for Congress — to verify the results.

Elector Khary Penebaker of Hartland said he almost lost track of the number. "I want to say I signed like 25 times or something like that, give take,” he said.

Credit Susan Bence / WUWM
Elector for 5th Congressional District Khary Penebaker took a bit of time to reflect about the experience Monday.

An hour after the vote, Penebaker sat in his car, still processing something few people experience.

"Someone asked me 'Was being an elector a dream come true?' I don’t know who dreams of being an elector, right? I didn’t grow up saying I want to be an elector when I grow up,” said Penebaker. “But once that process starts though, it takes on a very special kind of meaning, it is more impactful. I think I see the world differently than when I walked into this building a few hours ago."

This is Penebaker’s second stint as elector. “I was an elector in 2016 for Hilary but did not obviously get a chance to cast that vote,” he said.

This October, Penebaker was tapped again by the state Democratic chair. 

The ten electors were briefed and rebriefed in preparation of Monday’s proceedings. They would be completing two separate ballots, one for president and another for vice president.

Penebaker, who is Black, admits to a wave of unanticipated emotion when opening his packet and seeing Kamala Harris’ name.

He said his two young daughters sprang to mind. “I’m just staring at it and I just had the pure raw emotion of celebrating, wanting a person of color in such a powerful position and thinking again, what it meant for my two daughters and other girls of color,” he explained.

"I'm never going to forget that moment — when I saw Kamala Harris' name on that ballot. I lack the words to describe how awesome that feels." - Khary Penebaker

Penebaker spontaneously drew a heart on the ballot. “Then I thought, okay, I don’t know how they’re going to count these and if there are some regulations on how you fill in that square,” he said.

So he quickly marked an x in that square. Penebaker said he remains awestruck.

“I’m never going to forget that moment — when I saw Kamala Harris’ name on that ballot," he said. "I lack the words to describe how awesome that feels."

Prior to the electors’ vote, the state Supreme Court rejected President Donald Trump’s lawsuit challenging the outcome of the election. It was the latest ruling not to go in Trump’s favor.

But state Republicans refused to give up the fight. GOP electors met Monday to cast ballots for Trump.

State Republican Party Chairman Andrew Hitt said the move preserved the GOP’s “role in the electoral process with the final outcome still pending in the court.”

Susan is WUWM's environmental reporter.
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