By Brandi Buckman | Courthouse News
(CN) — The Electoral College on Monday certified Joe Biden as President-elect and Kamala Harris as Vice President-elect of the United States, closing one of the last chapters of the Trump presidency.
There are 538 electors in the college representing all 50 states, and each elector is chosen by either the Democrat or Republican Party well ahead of the general election in November. As certification got underway this morning, each elector cast a vote to represents his or her state’s results from the Nov. 2 contest. The final tally is 306 electoral votes for Biden, and 232 for outgoing President Donald Trump. Only 270 votes are needed for victory.
The next stop under the Constitution is a joint session of Congress where, on January 6 at 1 p.m., lawmakers will convene for the centuries-old tradition of tabulating, inspecting and approving the Electoral College votes. Vice President Mike Pence, as president of the U.S. Senate, will preside over that count.
Typically, the Electoral College certification process is one that draws little fanfare.
But since his defeat in November, Trump has spent almost every day on Twitter or in television appearances proclaiming, against all available evidence, that he won the 2020 election.
He has also yet to concede to Biden formally. While this is a long tradition for losers of the general election, it is in fact a courtesy not a requirement under law for a transition of power to occur.
President-elect Biden is expected to deliver an address about the certifications live from Wilmington, Delaware, around 7:30 p.m. on Monday.
Trump has so far lost 59 lawsuits seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 election. His latest defeat was doled out Monday morning by the Supreme Court of Wisconsin, where his campaign had alleged fraud and demanded a recount of Milwaukee and Dane counties.
The court rejected the challenge outright hours before Wisconsin certified its electoral count of 10 votes for Biden and Harris.
While Trump’s maneuvering in court has failed time and again, he has employed other tactics in recent weeks, like directly contacting state legislators.
Trump called Pennsylvania’s Speaker of the House Bryan Cutler earlier this month asking for intervention, but his pressure campaign failed after Cutler informed Trump that he had no authority as state speaker to order a special session or recount.
In battleground Pennsylvania, electors on Monday gave Biden all 20 of their votes. Despite a bitter slog between the candidates there during campaign season, the certification was mostly uneventful. Republican electors for the Pennsylvania GOP did, however, opt to hold something known as a “procedural vote” to keep their legal hopes alive for Trump as the clock windows down to the joint session on Jan. 6.
Bernadette Comfort, chair of the Trump campaign in Pennsylvania said the mock vote — which does not have legal force — was not meant to “usurp or contest” the will of Pennsylvania’s voters.
In some states, electors must cast their ballot for the candidate who won the popular election. This is not the case in Pennsylvania where it is the winning candidate who selects the electors. Biden flipped Pennsylvania from red to blue with a total of 3,459,923 votes in his favor to Trump’s 3,378,263.
Electoral voters were cast in waves, beginning with New Hampshire, Tennessee, Vermont, Arkansas, Illinois, Mississippi, South Carolina, Iowa, Nevada and Kentucky.
Vermont and New Hampshire gave their combined seven electoral votes to Biden, while Tennessee and Indiana awarded their votes — a total of 22 — to President Trump. Trump won Tennessee by about 60% in November and took Indiana by just over 57%.
In Iowa, where the GOP won the day in November, Trump took six. In Nevada, which Biden won following a lengthy count and recount, the former vice president earned six electoral votes. In Kentucky, a Republican stronghold, all eight electors voted for Trump.
Trump was awarded all 29 electoral votes in Florida, where certifications went smoothly despite the president of the Florida Senate and one of the college’s electors, Wilton Simpson, announcing he would send in an alternate to certify for him after testing positive for Covid-19.
In Georgia, which was critical to Biden’s victory, Monday made for a voting bonanza. While electors cast all 16 votes for Biden and Harris, the state also kicked off early voting for a key Senate runoff election. Democrats Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock are challenging Georgia Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler there — a contest that could shift control of the U.S. Senate to Democrats if the incumbents both lose.
“This is not a moment of partisanship but patriotism,” said Stacey Abrams, a Democratic strategist, elector and founder of the voting rights organization Fair Fight, as she presided over the vote. “We’ve come together time and again to do something that has been done for 200 years and because we are, there is the United States of America.”
Abrams is widely credited for delivering Biden such a huge turnout in the state. Through Fair Fight and another Abrams-run initiative, the New Georgia Project, the groups registered more than 800,000 new voters.
From around midday on, a slew of states certified faithfully, casting ballots for whichever candidate won in November and after recounts.
One disruption to electoral tallying played out in Michigan, a state where Biden beat Trump by 154,000 votes. Most electors meet in state capitol buildings or in alternative, legislative offices, to conduct the electoral count.
In Lansing, Michigan, the capitol building has remained closed because of Covid-19 restrictions. Tallies were expected to take place in a nearby statehouse, but credible threats of violence closed legislative offices on Monday. Ahead of the election, police intercepted a plot by some Republicans to kidnap the state’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer over backlash to mask mandates.
“The decision was not made because of anticipated protests but was made based on credible threats of violence,” said Amber McCann, a spokeswoman for Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey.
Texas lodged its votes as the day wound down, giving Trump all 38 of the state’s electoral votes. California issued all 55 of the Golden State’s electors to the former vice president.
Should Biden secure the majority of votes needed to lock in his victory with the Electoral College, Stephen Miller, a senior adviser to Trump, indicated that the White House is still planning to mount a challenge at the joint session in January.
“As we speak today, an alternate slate of electors in the contested states is going to vote and we’re going to send those votes up to Congress,” Miller said this morning in a “Fox and Friends” appearance. “This will ensure all of our legal remedies will remain open.”
The “slates” Miller referred to are the votes Pence will read off during the joint session. Objections are allowed to be lodged in writing during this time but — to meet the criteria laid out in an obscure 18th century law guiding the electoral process — the objections must receive the backing of at least one other lawmaker to be considered and debated.
If an objection fails, the count continues.
One of Trump’s most loyal allies, Representative Mo Brooks in Alabama, has said publicly he will lead a charge in January to challenge the results of five states: Nevada, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Arizona.
All were close for Trump but recounts put the final tally in Biden’s favor. Since Brooks is in the House of Representatives, he needs a Senate counterpart to give his challenge legitimacy.
Though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has yet to openly declare Joe Biden the president-elect, there are few indicators on Capitol Hill that any senator would join Brooks in his foray.