December 15, 2020 at 2:25 pm EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Lesbian joins historic all-woman slate of D.C. electors
Barbara Helmick, gay news, Washington Blade
Barbara Helmick cast her votes on Dec. 14 for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris for president and vice president. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C. statehood advocate Barbara Helmick, an out lesbian and Democratic Party activist, cast separate votes on Monday, Dec. 14, for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris for president and vice president as part of D.C.’s first-ever all-woman slate of presidential electors.

Helmick and fellow Democrats and community activists Meedie Bardonille and Jacqueline Constance Echavarria each cast their ballots for Biden and Harris as one of the three presidential electors allocated to D.C. in presidential elections as part of the Electoral College.

The voting took place in a ceremony at the city’s Walter Washington Convention Center. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser presided over the ceremony and the voting.

“This is the first time in D.C. history that we have had three female electors,” said D.C. Democratic Party Chair Charles Wilson, who spoke at the ceremony. “And we are so proud to do this in the 100th year anniversary of the women’s suffrage movement,” Wilson told the gathering. “We truly couldn’t have picked three better electors.”

Helmick became the first lesbian to be selected as a D.C. presidential elector this year by the D.C. Democratic Party, which selects Democratic electors. The late gay Democratic activist Jeff Coudriet served as a D.C. presidential elector in 1996.

Helmick and her fellow electors cast their votes on the same day that presidential electors in all 50 states convened to vote in their respective state capitals in keeping with the Electoral College system created under the U.S. Constitution.

Based on the outcome of the popular vote in each of the states and D.C., the Biden-Harris ticket was expected to receive a total of 306 electoral votes, including D.C.’s three electoral votes. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were expected to receive 232 electoral votes, a development ensuring that Biden and Harris had emerged as winners of the 2020 presidential election.

During the voting, Bowser called on each of the three women electors to verbally announce the two candidates for whom they voted, first for president and then for vice president.

“Meedie Bardonille, for whom did you vote?” the mayor called out. “Joseph Biden,” Bardonille replied.

“Barbara Helmick, for whom did you vote,” Bowser continued. “Joseph Biden,” Helmick shouted. “Jacqueline Constance Echavarria, for whom did you vote?” said Bowser. “Joseph R. Biden Jr.,” Echavarria replied.

Bowser repeated the process for vice president, and Democratic candidate Kamala Harris, the U.S. senator from California, emerged as the unanimous winner, with Helmick and the other two electors announcing in a loud voice they voted for Harris.

“Thanks to the 23rd Amendment, passed in 1961, I had the privilege and honor to cast one of D.C.’s three votes for president and vice president of the United States,” Helmick told the Washington Blade. She was referring to the constitutional amendment that assigned three presidential electors to D.C., making D.C. the only jurisdiction other than a state to be a part of the Electoral College.

“Today is a day for celebration,” Helmick said. “For electing our first woman VP. For D.C. selecting the first gay woman elector. For the people of D.C. having a voice in the highest office of the land.”

Bowser noted that Monday’s electoral vote marked the 15th convening of D.C.’s Electoral College since the city was awarded three electoral votes through the constitutional amendment.

“We know so much has happened this year, including the very first vote in Congress in favor of D.C. statehood,” the mayor said. “It is my hope that four years from now we cast our vote as the 51st state.”

D.C. Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), who also spoke at the event, said the 2020 presidential and congressional elections took place after the U.S. House voted in an historic first to approve a D.C. statehood bill that she introduced last year. She said that while the bill has yet to come up for a vote in the Republican controlled Senate, she was hopeful that with 42 Senate co-sponsors the bill could have a shot at passing next year.

Other speakers at the Dec. 14 D.C. Electoral College meeting were D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large); D.C. Secretary of State Kimberly Bassett, who presided over part of the event; and Eddie Glaude Jr., chair of the African-American Studies Program at Princeton University.

Glaude provided a historical perspective of the Electoral College, noting that it was created as a compromise by the framers of the Constitution at the insistence of representatives of slave-owning states who were fearful of a popular vote for president. 

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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