Electoral College Vote Officially Affirms Biden’s Victory – The New York Times

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It began at 10 a.m. in New Hampshire, where electors met in a statehouse chamber festooned with holiday decorations and gave their four votes to Joseph R. Biden Jr. By noon on Monday, the battleground states of Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania, ground zero for many of President Trump’s fruitless lawsuits, had backed Mr. Biden too. In New York, Bill and Hillary Clinton voted for Mr. Biden along with 27 other electors.

And when California cast its 55 votes for Mr. Biden around 5:30 p.m. Eastern time, it pushed him past the threshold of 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the presidency, putting the official seal on his victory after weeks of efforts by Mr. Trump to use legal challenges and political pressure to overturn the results.

With the Electoral College vote behind him, Mr. Biden called for unity while forcefully denouncing the president and his allies for their assault on the nation’s voting system. In an address in Wilmington, Del., on Monday night, he said the Republican efforts to get the Supreme Court to undo the result represented a “position so extreme we’ve never seen it before,” and called the attacks on election officials at the local level “unconscionable.”

Mr. Biden said that “it is time to turn the page” on the election. Praising officials who stood up for the integrity of the system, he added: “It was honest, it was free and it was fair. They saw it with their own eyes. And they wouldn’t be bullied into saying anything different.”

For all of the turmoil that Mr. Trump had stirred with his conspiracy theories, lawsuits and baseless claims of fraud, the Electoral College vote that sealed Mr. Biden’s victory was mostly a staid, formal affair, devoid of drama. As it always is.

Though supporters of Mr. Trump had promised to mount protests outside the statehouses in battlegrounds that the president had lost, Monday’s voting went largely smoothly; there were no demonstrations that disrupted the proceedings, and in some states, police presence outnumbered protesters.

After Hawaii cast its four votes for Mr. Biden, he finished with 306 Electoral College votes, with no electors defecting from the slate.

The vote follows six weeks of unprecedented efforts by Mr. Trump to intervene in the electoral process and change the outcome of an election he lost by about seven million votes. He was joined by many Republicans who supported his unfounded claims of voter fraud, including 126 party members and 18 state attorneys general who supported a case before the Supreme Court that legal experts said had no merit. The court rejected the case on Friday.

One of the few places where there was any drama was Michigan, where a state representative began the day by claiming that the state Republican Party would find a way to defy the Democratic electors won by Mr. Biden, and issuing an ominous threat that he could not promise a safe day in Lansing. The Republican speaker of the house, Lee Chatfield, responded by stripping him of committee assignments, then issuing a statement forcefully rejecting pleas to appoint a separate, Trump-backed slate of electors.

“I fear we’d lose our country forever,” Mr. Chatfield said. “This truly would bring mutually assured destruction for every future election in regards to the Electoral College. And I can’t stand for that. I won’t.”

ImageSupporters of President Trump marched around the State Capitol in Harrisburg as Pennsylvania electors met to officially cast their Electoral College votes.

The vote on Monday officially sends Mr. Biden to the White House on his third attempt at the presidency, and after a trying election marked by deep divisions and a devastating pandemic. Mr. Biden has aggressively been working to fill out his cabinet to prepare for when he takes office in January, aiming to have a team ready to combat the coronavirus and begin the long recovery.

The vote also largely removes any cover for Republicans in Congress who for six weeks have largely refused to acknowledge Mr. Biden as the president-elect. In providing Mr. Trump the room to dispute his loss, staying largely silent as he peddled conspiracy theories about voting fraud, they had presented the Electoral College as the new marker for when a presidential victory should be recognized.

On Monday, some Republicans expressed what appeared to be a grudging acknowledgment that Mr. Biden had prevailed. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who had enthusiastically backed Mr. Trump’s bid to reverse his loss, told CNN that he had spoken with Mr. Biden and conveyed that he would work with him when possible. “It’s a very, very narrow path for the president,” Mr. Graham said of Mr. Trump. “I don’t see how it gets there from here, given what the Supreme Court did.”

Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri said that “Vice President Biden is the president-elect,” and Senator John Cornyn of Texas said the country would see “the page turned on Jan. 20, and we’ll have a peaceful transition.”

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader and the most powerful Republican in Congress, did not respond when asked by a reporter in the Capitol about Mr. Biden. And Mr. Cornyn and Mr. Graham defended Mr. Trump’s right to continue to challenge the outcome in the courts, underscoring just how tight a grip the president maintains on Republicans as his term winds down.

Yet for all of Mr. Trump’s threats and challenges, the voting was an affirmation of the enduring American institution of free and fair elections. In state after state, party leaders of national acclaim joined with local grass-roots delegates to certify Mr. Biden, in the manner prescribed in the Constitution but with the pandemic-era additions of masks and social distancing.

In Albany, New York, Bill and Hillary Clinton cast their paper votes in mahogany boxes in a mostly empty statehouse chamber alongside 27 other electors including Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo; at the Capitol building in Wisconsin, Gov. Tony Evers presided over the vote as the state’s 10 delegates, in business attire, sat several feet apart in leather-backed chairs and handed their votes over to a roving aide; Vermont’s three delegates filled their paperwork out in hearty winter dress in Montpelier.

“It’s not just out of tradition but to show folks, especially now more than ever, our system works,” Gov. Chris Sununu, Republican of New Hampshire, said before the vote in his state.

Though the meeting of the Electoral College is an important milestone in the democratic process, it is rarely one that attracts outsize attention and becomes a major political event. But as the president continued his relentless campaign to subvert the election, the vote on Monday had loomed as an important deadline, promising to bring some sense of finality to one of the most challenging elections in generations.

Despite his definitive defeat in the Electoral College vote, Mr. Trump has remained defiant. Over the weekend, he attacked the Supreme Court for rejecting a challenge to the election results and continued to make baseless accusations on Twitter about voter fraud. He has shown no sign that he intends to concede the election.

The increasingly caustic language from the president has kept tensions high throughout the country, as protests in Washington on Saturday devolved into violence. Anticipating more demonstrations, some states provided security for the voting sites, and though large-scale protests never materialized, some election officials spoke out against the rhetoric.

The baseless accusations of misconduct and fraud have cast “an artificial shadow” over the Electoral College vote, Katie Hobbs, the secretary of state in Arizona, said as she opened the meeting of electors in her state. “And this fabrication of misdeed leveled against everyone, from poll workers to me and my office, has led to threats of violence against me, my office and those in this room today.”

Mr. Biden, in his remarks Monday night, called the efforts of election officials “one of the most amazing demonstrations of civic duty we’ve ever seen in our country” and said that they “should be celebrated, not attacked.”

He praised election local officials for persisting through “enormous political pressure, verbal abuse and even threats of physical violence.”

He pointed out that Mr. Trump’s legal team was “denied no course of action” in the courts, but that judges appointed by Mr. Trump himself had dismissed his challenges out of hand, and that many officials in states with Republican-controlled legislatures had upheld the integrity of the process.

The drama surrounding the Electoral College was all the more unusual because there was no state in which the vote was close enough to leave the result in doubt. Even in Georgia, where the final tally was sufficiently narrow to prompt two recounts, Mr. Biden won by nearly 12,000 votes.

But electors found themselves in the national spotlight when Mr. Trump began to push Republican-controlled legislatures in states he lost to ignore the popular vote and to appoint their own slate of electors.

The president had also hoped a bevy of court cases, including a long-shot lawsuit before the Supreme Court, would help force state legislatures’ hands. But in court case after court case, Mr. Trump was dealt a string of losses, often coupled with withering opinions denouncing the effort as meritless.

Under normal circumstances, the Electoral College sessions on Monday would be the last procedural vote of any consequence. The next step in the process, a congressional vote validating the Electoral College results in early January, is a formality barring extraordinary circumstances, such as if a state were to send competing slates of electors.

But Mr. Trump, his aides and his supporters, who have sought to disrupt the technical aspects of formalizing Mr. Biden’s victory in ways that have never been done before, made a last-gasp claim that they could engineer Congressional approval, as well.

Speaking on “Fox & Friends” on Monday morning, the senior White House adviser Stephen Miller said, “An alternate slate of electors in the contested states is going to vote, and we’re going to send those results to Congress.” He said that those slates would “ensure that all of our legal remedies remain open.”

Republicans in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Nevada and Michigan followed the White House’s lead, making or discussing moves to form their own competing slates of pro-Trump electors — a theatrical effort that has no legal pathway. Electoral College slates are tied to the winner of the popular vote, and for 2020 they are now formally certified.

Reporting was contributed by Nicholas Fandos, Michael D. Shear, Reid J. Epstein, Kathleen Gray, Kay Nolan and Hank Stephenson.