On December 14, 2020, California’s 55 representatives to the electoral college met in Sacramento and cast ballots for Joe Biden for President and Kamala Harris for Vice President. California’s electors gave Biden/Harris the electoral college votes they needed to pass the 270-vote threshold.
Tamlyn Tomita served as one of the electors, chosen by Congresswoman Judy Chu to represent California’s 27th Congressional District. Maeley Tom recommended Tamlyn to Rep. Chu for the honor. Tamlyn shares her story below.
By Tamlyn Tomita
To everyone who is taking the time to read my experience as a presidential elector, please know that I chose to do it in the voice of an awe-struck citizen of the United States of America and it may come off as a grade-school report, but I approached it with the innocence of a young person with no expectations, and with the wide eyes of someone who is experiencing an event that few people have the honor of participating in.
To be honest, I was quite moved by being witness to the event of casting a presidential elector ballot on behalf of Representative Judy Chu (CA 27). I felt the weight of responsibility in this exercise of American democracy in action.
In full disclosure, Rep. Chu asked Dale Minami to serve as her elector, but he was kind enough to recommend me instead based on Maeley Tom’s suggestion. I was flabbergasted by her invitation because of Rep. Chu’s tremendous impact on my life. She was one of my first two Asian American professors at UCLA who introduced me to “Asian America.” Rep. Chu was my UCLA Asian American Women’s Studies professor who opened my eyes to the legacy of Asian American women who were pioneers in advocating and activating for social and racial justice. I have had the honor in mentioning this whenever I get the chance to introduce her as a California daughter who now serves as the first Chinese American woman in Congress, and I hope she understands her place in my world for literally opening the door to a particular chapter of American history.
I wrote the account below in the voice of my younger self. I felt it was appropriate because I feel quite small in the chambers of the California Assembly and it somehow captures the difficulty in expressing the grandness of the moment I was so fortunate to participate in. In no way do I mean to diminish the weight of the occasion, or make diminutive the exercise of casting a presidential elector vote for the state of California.
The voice I used expresses my wonder of it all.
Dear Mr. Minami:
Thank you so much for advising Rep. Judy Chu to appoint me as her Presidential Elector for the Electoral College 2020 in Sacramento, California.
I have not been to Sacramento since my fifth grade class field trip and Sacramento is a very important and historical place, most of which I have forgotten even though I am waaaaaay past college age and here I am participating in the Electoral College for California!
This field trip was different, but it was great! I feel like the fifth-grader I was so long ago when I was introduced to California’s halls of government, only this time it was to cast a faithful ballot to affirm and confirm Joseph R. Biden as President-elect and Kamala D. Harris as Vice-President-elect, the first woman to hold such high office!
I took some pictures as you had asked, but I am not very good at taking photographs; my mom and dad usually take them.
I learned a lot from this exercise in democracy. There was a program, an official roll call (where we were to stand when our name was called!), an oath to be signed, and two ballots, one which had Joseph R. Biden’s name for President (yay!) and the other had Kamala D. Harris’ name for Vice-President.
I cried when I got to sign the Vice President elector ballot. It took me by surprise when I saw her name, a woman’s name for Vice President! I didn’t really expect that to happen: the audacity, the hope fulfilled, the progress in moving our country forward and confirmation from the majority of voices across the nation that women can lead! The first time a woman will serve as Vice President in the history of our nation and she is Black/Asian American!
The nice man who sat in front of me was Brock Neely from Porterville, a gay half-Filipino man who represented one of the reddest districts, the 22nd, Devin Nunes’s (boo!) district. He and I chatted a long time about his work and how historic it is to get “Orange Anus” (those are his words! I’m not supposed to swear!) out of office. He was great! I sat there mostly listening and learning about his district Tulare County. Behind me was an older African American woman who represented the 15th District, Eric Swalwell’s district. It was great to have all kinds of people in the room!
We listened to some very short speeches, and said “aye” to everything (there was one “nay” I heard when Kamala Harris for Vice President was voted on), but when all the ballots were tallied for both President and Vice President, there were 55 ayes and zero nays!!! It was great as it was really noisy in the room!
And then all the ballots were picked up, and then we had to sign 10 copies of certification and then we voted to adjourn! The government is very formal with all its proceedings and it felt even more so because we had to keep our masks on and we had to vote “aye” to adjourn!
My mom said she watched the historic moment on TV and said she could see me since I was wearing suffragette white and was in the middle of the room! My love saw the whole broadcast on CNN asked me to wave at the camera “now” when I was on! So I waved and blew kisses at him! I misbehaved, but we were all just waiting for everyone to finish all the signing, so I hoped no one minded. Boy, lots of signing of papers in government, it’s not like anything in student government! But, there was a gavel that was struck when we officially adjourned after we have collectively heard the motion to adjourn, it was seconded, and ten we all collectively said “aye!”
Thank you so much, Mr. Minami, for giving me the opportunity to serve as elector. I am sorry you didn’t get to experience it in person, but I hope that you can tell from my story how truly great this moment in history was!
The great State of California put Joe Biden and Kamala Harris over the threshold of the required 270 electoral college votes to be affirmed as the President-elect and Vice President-elect! Everyone on the news was saying that “democracy prevails” and the two moments in the room where I got to participate in the applause of us 55 electors, those were moments I shall never forget. I was lucky and privileged to be a part of those priceless moments. And on January 20, 2021, at 12:01 p.m. Eastern Time, everyone will get to experience how great America is and how we will all move forward with renewed hope and healing with President Biden and MADAME Vice President Harris!!
I hope that these pictures followed by some videos coming, will be fun for you as it was for me! It was full of awe, isn’t that what “awesome” really means?
Thank you so much for the awesomeness of this moment in history!!!