United States President-elect Joe Biden claimed victory in the Electoral College after key battleground states gave him and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris a clear majority of electors and he rebuked President Donald Trump for failing to acknowledge the will of the American people.
“The flame of democracy was lit in this nation a long time ago. And we now know that nothing – not even the pandemic – or an abuse of power – can extinguish that flame,” Biden said in a televised address to the nation from Wilmington, Delaware, on Monday night.
“In America, politicians don’t take power – the people grant it to them,” Biden said, taking direct aim at President Trump’s refusal to concede the November 3 election and attempts by Trump and Republican allies to overturn the results in the courts and with state officials.
“In this battle for the soul of America, democracy prevailed,” Biden said, calling on Trump to recognize his win as a “landslide”.
There are 538 electors in the Electoral College and a majority of 270 is required to win. Biden went over the top earlier in the day when California, the largest US state, cast its 55 electors for the Democratic ticket. The Pacific island state of Hawaii was the last to cast its votes, bringing Biden’s total to 306 electoral votes. Trump won 232.
All of the election’s most closely contested battleground states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Georgia cast their votes for Biden.
Established in the US Constitution in 1787, the Electoral College is an archaic institution that – after Trump won in 2016 without also winning the national, popular vote – some would like to see eliminated.
Each state is awarded a number electors in the college equal to its number of seats in Congress, which is based on population.
Prior to the election, slates of electors are chosen by candidates and their parties within each state. When US citizens vote, they actually cast ballots to elect a slate of electors for their preferred candidate, not the candidates themselves.
Those electors are often lesser-known party loyalists, but in some cases, they are well-known, as in the case former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who served as Biden electors in New York state.
Biden offered thanks to all the election workers and public officials involved in tallying the vote and he decried Trump and his supporters’ attempts to pressure officials into overturning the results.
“They knew this election was overseen – overseen by them. It was honest. It was fair. They saw it with their own eyes,” Biden said.
“That they wouldn’t be bullied into saying anything different was remarkable, because so many of these patriotic Americans are subject to so much enormous political pressure, verbal abuse, and even threats of physical violence,” he added.
Electors in Arizona were forced to meet in an undisclosed location and the Michigan statehouse was closed for business because of threats of violence from Trump supporters, according to US media reports.
By law, the electors met today in each of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia to formally cast their votes. Those documents are then sent to Congress where they will be read and counted on January 6 in a joint session of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Some House Republicans have said they will seek to challenge Biden’s selection in that process. Congress, barring any successful objections, will then declare the winner of the presidential election.
Senator John Cornyn, a top Republican, told reporters at the US Capitol that trying to overturn the Electoral College vote in Congress “would be a bad mistake” and said it is time for Republicans to move on and acknowledge Trump’s loss.
“Comes a time when you have to realise that despite your best efforts, you’ve been unsuccessful,” Cornyn said.
“You have got to have a winner and a loser,” he said.
As many as 125 Republican members of the House signed on to an appeal by the state of Texas to the US Supreme Court attempting to overturn the vote in key states that went for Biden. The US high court unanimously rejected Texas’s claims on December 11.
Most Republicans in Congress have so far refrained from acknowledging Biden’s victory, although that now appears to be shifting.
“When it’s over, it’s over. And it should be over Monday,” Senator Lamar Alexander, a Republican who is retiring from Congress, said on a Sunday television talk show on NBC.
Normally, the meeting today of the Electoral College would be a formality but with Trump attempting to challenge Biden’s election at every step of the way, this year is different.
Pennsylvania’s 20 electors met in the state capital in Harrisburg to cast their votes for Biden and Harris. It was Pennsylvania that gave Biden the apparent Electoral College win on November 7 after votes were counted
“Maybe the only [Electoral College meeting] that got more attention was the first one” when George Washington was elected president, Pennsylvania state Representative Malcolm Kenyatta said, the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper reported.