|Dorothye G. Scott: Administrative Assistant to the Senate Democratic Secretary and to the Secretary of the Senate|
“On the day of the joint session, the senators would line up. The page boys would go first, carrying the boxes...”
Interviewed by Senate historian Donald Ritchie, Scott describes the official, ceremonial joint sessions of Congress held every four years to count electoral ballots for each election of the president and the vice president.
DOROTHYE G. SCOTT: And then also they used to call me the "registrar" of the Electoral College. We had to receive all the actual votes of the electors and we put out publications about the Electoral College, about the manner of selecting electors, delegates to national conventions, and all that. That's what I used to use in my seminars. The Electoral College votes all would come into us. This was very important, because this was it, this was the election of the president. No matter how people voted, if the electors themselves didn't carry out their wishes, then that was the end of it. We had a joint session, and I think that in Senator Byrd's book there is a picture of the two pages who would lead the Senate over in procession to the joint session. They had these large mahogany boxes that were inlaid with leather. In each box we'd have half of the electoral votes. But until the day of the joint session to tally the votes, we would keep the electoral votes in our safe. Mr. Frazier, when he was chief clerk, and I would go over them. We'd have to record everything. We'd open them and we'd have to be sure everything was okay, otherwise it would have to be sent back to the states for the electors to do it again. Anyway, that was an important function every four years.
On the day of the joint session, the senators would line up. The page boys would go first, carrying the boxes, with the secretary of the Senate and the sergeant at arms of the Senate following them, and then the vice president and the majority and minority leaders, and all the senators. I have a picture of that out in Palm Springs which my cousin thinks is very historic, because I have three presidents in the picture. I have the joint session when Nixon was vice president and Senator Kennedy was a senator, and Senator Johnson was a senator. In that picture of the Senate going over for the joint session, there were three presidents. Maybe you'd like a copy of that?
DONALD RITCHIE: Sure.