With his health failing, Washington state elector casts vote of a lifetime

Earlier this week, Washington state electors gathered at the Capitol building in Olympia to cast their votes in the Electoral College. All were given time to explain why and who they're voting for; no faithless electors this election, unlike in 2016. 

But time is something that Everett resident Jack Arends doesn't take for granted. With his health failing and a doctor's grim diagnosis in early November, Arends gave an emotional speech during the vote.

"I did so enthusiastically, of my own choice. I did not need a law to try and tell me how to do it," he said during the session. 

In typical presidential election years, Electoral College stories like this may not even make it in the headlines. But as we know, this is not a typical year. Even for Jack, the emotional toll of the past few years, both politically and personally was overwhelming.

"It will be up to others to do the hardest work rebuilding our nation. My health is failing. In November, I was told there was no more medical treatment that could help me," Arends said during his speech.

Because of that, Arends' speech caught the attention of everyone in the room and all over the country. 

"I was glad to do my duty," he said.

We met with Arends at his home in Everett. He showed us the framed name card and certificate of service for being a presidential elector.

"The bottom (of the frame) are the quill pens we used to sign the certificates of election," Arends said.

We asked him the motivation for his vote. He emotionally thought of his first cousins, all of whom are women he said.

"I have no children of my own, but they're all my young first cousins and I want a better future for them, as women particularly," said Arends.

Vocationally, his career has taken him from being a local newspaper editor in Port Orchard and Queen Anne to working for Boeing. Arend's mother was a four-term councilmember in Bremerton. Eventually, he transitioned into politics, joining the Democratic Party in the late 1990s.

Healthwise however has been very difficult for him. Arends has had a heart valve issue for years, he said. Along with that, he's had kidney disease for six years and had a heart attack in 2011. 

"And now the combination of the two things, along with new complications from my liver caused my primary care doctor to tell me in November 9th that there really isn't anything else that can be done," he said.

With the grim prognosis, it remains unclear how much time Arends has left. But he knew had had to make the most of it. So during the summer, knowing that COVID-19 was changing how things work, including election protocols, he simply asked his Democratic representatives if he could be a state elector. 

"They jumped aboard and it was easy," he said.

If you've seen the speech, you may have also noticed subtle messages he hoped to convey as well, including a striped Kangol beret that has the phrase, "Play nice" on it that he started wearing about a year ago. 

"I won't even have to say anything. I'm just going to wear it to meetings and people are going to think what they're going to think," said Arends.

And because he didn't know he was going to have a chance to speak during the Electoral College vote, he wrote his four-paragraph speech on his iPhone.

"I drafted that statement as we were driving from Everett to Olympia," he said.

Even though Arends' health is deteriorating, he's not giving up. He continues to fight for what he believes is right.

"I've had a good life, in a free country and I want to make it better," he said.

And just like you, he voted to have his voice heard.

"It was important for me to do this one thing I could do, while I still can. Again, thank you and God Bless this country," said Arends.