Electoral College members in all six battleground states where President Donald Trump most fiercely contested the results cast their ballots for Democrat Joe Biden on Monday, effectively cutting off the president’s path to overturning the election.
The vote marks the watershed moment some Republican lawmakers have said would signal the end of their support for attempts to overturn the Nov. 3 election.
The 16 electors in Michigan voted for Biden, following the 63 votes cast for him earlier in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Biden will have enough electoral votes to be officially declared president-elect when members have cast 270 ballots, which is expected after California votes. Congress will officially count the votes on Jan. 6.
Electors in 50 US states and District of Columbia are voting for president and vice president in time-honored constitutional ceremonies that have drawn new attention this year after Trump refused to concede and insisted without evidence that the election was “rigged.”
Many Republicans have refused to recognize Biden’s victory, indulging Trump’s baseless claims about a stolen election and saying he had a right to pursue legal challenges and to let the process play out. And now, with electors casting their votes, it has.
“The Electoral College obviously brings some finality to this,” Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the chamber’s No. 2 Republican, told reporters last week. And South Carolina GOP Senator Lindsey Graham, another Trump ally, said when asked whether the president should concede, “I’ll talk to you December the 14th.”
Trump said on Fox News on Sunday that he’ll continue to fight the results, even after the US Supreme Court on Friday rejected a bid by Texas to nullify the election results in four of the six battleground states — a case the president had called “the big one” that was supported by Republican attorneys general in 18 states and 126 Republican members of Congress.
Republicans said Trump electors who weren’t certified met in Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to cast votes in case pending litigation overturned the results. But any attempt to get Congress to consider a rival slate of electors is “not going to work as a matter of law,” said Edward Foley, a professor and director of an election-law program at Ohio State University who has studied disputed elections.
Later Monday, Biden will call on the country to come together now that the process has concluded.
“The flame of democracy was lit in this nation a long time ago. And we now know that nothing — not even a pandemic or an abuse of power — can extinguish that flame,” Biden will say, according to prepared remarks that his transition team announced he would deliver Monday night. “And so, now it is time to turn the page. To unite. To heal.”
The president’s campaign and his allies filed dozens of lawsuits seeking to invalidate Biden’s victories in the battleground states, and almost all were rejected for lack of evidence of fraud. The president has been pressuring Republicans in Congress and in states to help him overturn the election, and has urged state legislators to appoint rival Trump electors.
Rick Bloomingdale, a Biden elector in Pennsylvania, said before the meeting at the state capitol in Harrisburg that he was confident his vote would be counted and that Trump’s efforts to overturn the election would fail.
“At noon on January 20th, Joe Biden’s going to be president of the United States,” said Bloomingdale, president of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO. “It’s mind-boggling to me that we have people that are actually trying to conduct a coup and take the votes away from the voters.”
Pennsylvania elector Paige Gebhardt Cognetti said she was especially proud to cast her vote for Biden because she worked at the US Treasury Department when he was vice president and now is mayor of Scranton, his boyhood home.
“It shouldn’t matter who your parents voted for, if you’re a kid growing up in Scranton, you should know that you can become president,” Cognetti said.
Most electors are meeting in their state capitals with restricted access and social distancing because of the coronavirus pandemic. Nevada conducted its meeting entirely by video conference, and Arizona didn’t publicly disclose the location of its gathering to keep it “low key.”
There were protests against Trump’s election outside the Electoral College meeting in some states in 2016, and there could be demonstrations this year. Trump supporters gathered to protest in Washington on Saturday, at times clashing with counter-protesters and police.
Police were to escort the state’s electors from a parking garage to the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, said elector Chris Cracchiolo, chairman of the Grand Traverse Democratic Party and vice chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party.
Earlier: Republicans Block Inaugural Resolution Recognizing Biden’s Win
“At the time I volunteered to do this, I thought it was somewhat ceremonial,” Cracchiolo said before the meeting. “Since November 3, the magnitude and importance of this role seems to magnify every day.”
The Michigan legislature was closed due to safety concerns, and the legislature stripped Republican state Representative Gary Eisen of his committee posts Monday after the lawmaker said he was going to be part of a potentially violent protest seeking to overturn the state’s Electoral College vote.
“I know this isn’t the outcome some want,” Republican Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield said in a statement supporting the Electoral College vote for Biden. “But we have a republic if we can keep it. And I intend to.”
When US voters mark ballots in a presidential race, they’re actually voting for a candidate’s slate of electors who cast that state’s electoral votes — one vote for each US representative and senator. The candidate who gets a majority of the 538 electoral votes, or 270, wins the presidency.
Biden won 306 electoral votes from the 25 states and the District of Columbia he carried, and electors, who are generally selected by their political parties, are essentially committed to vote for the winner of the popular vote in their state. Trump captured 232 electoral votes from the 25 states he won.
The next step is for Congress to tally the electoral votes from each state in a joint session on Jan. 6 with Vice President Mike Pence presiding. There could be some drama if a member of the House and the Senate object to a state’s slate of electors. That would require each chamber to debate and vote on the objection.
Republican Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama has said he plans to make an objection, but so far no senator has emerged to join him. Seventy-five Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania also sent a Dec. 4 letter to the state’s congressional delegation urging them to object.
Any objection that reached a vote is likely to fail with Democrats controlling the House and enough Republican senators acknowledging Biden’s victory, said Nathaniel Persily, a Stanford University law professor and election-law expert.
But Monday’s meeting of electors is the last step for anyone waiting for the process to play out, Persily said.
“That constitutionally would be end of the road,” he said. ( Bloomberg )
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