Few surprises as Electoral College gives Biden 270 votes
Trump and Republicans continue legal challenges ahead of Jan. 6 certification
President-elect Joe Biden crested the 270-vote threshold needed to win the presidential contest as members of the Electoral College cast their ballots for president on Monday. California’s 55 votes put Biden over the edge, giving him 302 votes, and Hawaii added four votes later in the day. President Donald Trump captured 232 votes.
States’ tallies unfolded in a largely anticlimactic fashion throughout the day.
The Electoral College is usually a routine component of selecting a new president. But in the last five weeks, the Trump campaign and Republicans have challenged the integrity of the election, called on officials not to certify the results, and argued that states acted unconstitutionally by changing election laws in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of these efforts have failed. Wisconsin’s state Supreme Court handed down another loss on Monday, denying Trump’s request to toss out about 220,000 votes in two heavily Democratic counties.
This year’s Electoral College vote also featured social distancing, masks, and, in some states, increased safety precautions. Nevada was the only state to cast votes virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic. In Arizona, electors met in an undisclosed location due to “threats of violence,” according to Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. In Michigan, police escorted electors into a locked-down capitol. The House and Senate offices in Lansing, Mich., closed to the public due to “a credible threat of violence,” according to a spokeswoman for the state Senate GOP’s majority leader. Earlier in the year, federal agents thwarted an alleged plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Voting started at 10 a.m. Eastern and continued in waves throughout the day. Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia have laws to prevent or penalize so-called “faithless electors” who don’t vote for the state’s popular vote winner. A United States Supreme Court ruling earlier this year also made it easier for states to remove rogue electors. In 2016, seven electors cast votes for someone other than the two presidential candidates, but none made any surprise picks on Monday.
Meanwhile, in some battleground states, including Georgia, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, Republicans held rival meetings to cast votes for Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in case court cases overturn election results in those states. The Pennsylvania coalition said the Trump campaign asked them to do so.
“We took this procedural vote to preserve any legal claims that may be presented going forward,” Bernie Comfort, chairwoman of the Pennsylvania Trump campaign, said in a statement. “This was in no way an effort to usurp or contest the will of the Pennsylvania voters.”
Wisconsin GOP Chairman Andrew Hitt said Republicans there cast the votes “to preserve our role in the electoral process with the final outcome still pending in the courts.”
The move has a narrow chance of success for Trump, but it’s not unprecedented. In the 1960 presidential election, Republican Richard Nixon won Hawaii, but Democrat John F. Kennedy’s campaign requested a recount. In the meantime, his electors cast a conditional vote. Kennedy won the recount and the votes went to him. (He would have won the election even without Hawaii’s votes that year.)
On Jan. 6 in a joint session of the new Congress, Vice President Mike Pence will tally the certificates electors signed on Monday.
Some GOP members of the House have raised the possibility of challenging the Electoral College vote. A challenge to any state’s results would need the backing of one House member and one senator from that state. Both chambers would then debate and vote on the objection, which would need a simple majority in both the House and Senate to pass. Any challenge would be dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled House. In 2016, Democrats in the House raised objections but didn’t have support in the Senate.
Biden addressed the nation on Monday evening, touting the resilience of democracy and rebuffing Trump’s claims about the election: “If anyone didn’t know it before, we know it now. What beats deep in the hearts of the American people is this: Democracy. The right to be heard. To have your vote counted. To choose the leaders of this nation. To govern ourselves.”
If you enjoyed this article and would like to support WORLD's brand of Biblically sound journalism, click here.