WASHINGTON - With the casting of their Electoral College votes Monday, electors formally gave Joe Biden more than the 270 electoral votes needed to certify his election victory.
With Hawaii’s four electoral votes the last to be tallied, Biden has 306 electoral votes to President Donald Trump’s 232, well beyond the threshold needed to win the presidency.
Biden has been a Democratic fixture on the U.S. political scene for nearly a half-century, and his Electoral College win makes Trump, a Republican, the fifth U.S. president in the country’s 244-year history to lose a bid for reelection after a single term in the White House.
The Electoral College vote is normally a routine formality in the quadrennial U.S. presidential election calendar. But since the November 3 national vote, Trump has repeatedly claimed without credible evidence the vote in key battleground states he lost to Biden by varying amounts was fraudulent, costing him reelection.
Trump and his allies have lost more than 50 lawsuits in battleground states contesting the vote.
Typically, all the electoral votes in each state are recorded for the popular vote winner in that state, although two small states — Nebraska and Maine — divide the votes by congressional district. This year, Biden picked up a single extra elector in Nebraska while losing the statewide vote, while Trump did the same in Maine.
Many of the electors throughout the U.S. are political party officials or civic leaders who pledged to vote in their states for Biden or Trump. Two of the Democratic electors for Biden in New York state were former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who lost the 2016 presidential election to Trump, and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
Trump maintained his broadsides against the Biden victory on Sunday, contending on Twitter, “Swing States that have found massive VOTER FRAUD, which is all of them, CANNOT LEGALLY CERTIFY these votes as complete & correct without committing a severely punishable crime.” He retweeted himself on Monday morning as the Electoral College voting started.
The electors often meet in state capitol buildings, but with tensions running high Monday, some of the Electoral College voting occurred at undisclosed locations and officials in at least two states provided armed protection for the electors as they arrived.
Biden addressed the nation Monday night after the vote was complete.
Biden won the national popular vote by more than 7 million votes, but the 538-member Electoral College determines the outcome of U.S. presidential elections in the indirect form of democracy the U.S. practices.
The most populous states hold the most sway, with each of the 50 states having the same number of electors as the number of senators and representatives it has in Congress. The national capital city of Washington, which does not have voting representation in Congress, has three electors, the same number as the country’s seven smallest states.
The Pacific coastal state of California, which Biden easily won, has the most electors, 55, followed by Texas with 38 electors who voted for Trump and 29 in New York for Biden.
In the midwestern state of Michigan, Democratic electors received police escorts from their cars into the State Capitol, which otherwise has been closed for the day to keep out gun-carrying Trump protesters who planned to demonstrate against the Biden victory in the political battleground state.
In the southwestern state of Arizona, where Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win since 1996, state officials held the vote at an undisclosed location for safety reasons, away from what was expected to be a contentious hearing on election integrity that Republicans were conducting in the statehouse.
In Delaware, Biden’s small eastern home state, the electoral vote ceremony was moved to a college gymnasium, a site considered to have more security.
Official count by Congress
Now that the Electoral College vote is completed, one last step remains in the U.S. presidential election tableau.
On January 6, the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives will meet in a joint session of Congress to officially count Monday’s Electoral College vote.
Trump allies in the House, led by Congressman Mo Brooks of Alabama, say they will contest the outcome in five states — Arizona, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Georgia and Wisconsin — where they contend widespread voting fraud cost Trump reelection. But election officials in all five states, including key Republicans in Georgia and Arizona, certified the Biden victory and said there was no decisive vote or vote-counting fraud that affected the outcome.
But before a congressional debate could occur on the Republican House members’ protest, a senator would have to join in contesting the outcome, but so far, none has said he or she would.
If the protests are dismissed, Vice President Mike Pence, presiding over the process, would end up declaring that he and Trump had lost their reelection bid.
At noon on January 20, Biden would be sworn in on the steps of the U.S. Capitol as the 46th U.S. president. At 78, he will be the oldest American leader ever elected.