Biden affirmed as US president by electoral college
College electors convened on Monday amid rancour over election result
Electors sign certificates of vote after Georgia electors cast their electoral college votes at the Georgia State Capitol: Donald Trump continued to dispute the election process right up to Monday’s deadline. Photograph: Nicole Craine/New York Times
President-elect Joe Biden has been affirmed by the electoral college as the next president of the United States, delivering another blow to Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the outcome of the election.
Mr Biden received the required number of votes by the electoral college, which convened on Monday, to be designated as the winner of the November 3rd election. California’s 55 electors officially certified its state’s vote on Monday evening, pushing Mr Biden over the 270 electoral college threshold needed to win the election. While Hawaii had still not declared, Mr Biden is expected to win 306 electoral votes, officially confirming the result of the November 3rd election.
Just as Mr Biden reached the threshold needed to win the election, President Trump announced on twitter the departure of attorney general Bill Barr. Mr Barr had previously said the Justice Department had found no evidence of voter fraud that would change the outcome of the election – reportedly provoking the president’s fury. While the departure of Mr Barr was not entirely unexpected, the timing of the announcement just as the electoral college reiterated Mr Biden’s victory raised eyebrows.
Throughout Monday, electors in each of the 50 states and Washington DC gathered – mostly in state capitols – to cast their ballots, based on the result of the election. Among the electors were Bill and Hillary Clinton, who cast their votes in New York state, while former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams declared Georgia’s results.
The tradition goes back to the founding of the Republic. Each Monday after the second Wednesday in December in a presidential election year, the electoral college convenes and formally votes for the president and vice-president.
President Donald Trump continued to dispute the process right up to Monday’s scheduled event. As the electoral college prepared to convene on Monday morning, the president tweeted a quote from a Fox News host asking why swing states “stop counting in the middle of the night . . . Because they waited to find out how many ballots they had to produce in order to steal the Rigged Election,” he wrote, prompting twitter to add its now familiar warning to his post.
In fact, the key swing states which tipped the election in Mr Biden’s favour, all upheld the result. Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia all declared for Mr Biden, with Mr Trump declared the winner in the states he won, such as Florida and Texas. The concept of “faithless electors” – whereby states break with the result of the election in their state and cast their votes for an alternative candidate – had offered hope to some Trump supporters that Mr Biden’s victory in some states could be overturned. But the key swing states followed through on the result in their states, despite relentless pressure from Mr Trump towards the like of Georgia and Pennsylvania to declare the election result invalid.
Speaking as Michigan declared its result, Governor Gretchen Whitmer said the outcome was now final. “It’s time to move forward as one United States of America,” she said.
Michigan’s state assembly was under strict restrictions on Monday, after “credible threats” of violence, according to officials. Ms Whitmer was herself the subject of a kidnapping plot earlier this year.
The process now moves to Congress. After the certificates of ascertainment are received, the incoming Congress will meet for a joint session on January 6th to count the results and declare the outcome of the election. At 1pm on that day, Mike Pence, in his capacity as president of the senate, will open the certificates and present them to four tellers who will then read the vote.
Members can object to the results from any individual state – though objections must be made in writing by at least one member of the House and the Senate. If a member objects in this way, each chamber can debate the matter for a maximum of two hours, and then vote on it.
But the mathematics of the incoming Congress make it highly unlikely that the electoral college outcome will be overturned. Democrats will control the House of Representatives in January, while Republicans will control the Senate, but only just, with Mr Pence permitted to cast a tie-breaking vote. It is virtually guaranteed that multiple Republicans will refuse to heed Mr Trump’s call to challenge the result – Republican senators like Mitt Romney, Pat Toomey, Susan Collins and others have already publicly referred to Mr Biden as president-elect.
Mr Biden was expected to stress a note of unity in an address to the nation later on Monday night, declaring that he will be a president “for all Americans”.
“In this battle for the soul of America, democracy prevailed. We the people voted; faith in our institutions held, the integrity of our elections remains intact. And so, now it is time to turn the page – to unite, to heal.
“As I said through this campaign, I will be a president for all Americans. I will work just as hard for those of you who didn’t vote for me, as I will for those who did.”
There was no response from senior Republicans last night to the result of the vote.
The decision by more than 100 members of congress to support last week’s ill-fated lawsuit by Texas to dismiss the result in four other states took many by surprise and indicates the power Mr Trump continues to exert over his party.