The U.S. Electoral College braved threats of violence to confirm Joe Biden’s presidential victory, even as allies of defeated incumbent Donald Trump vowed to continue their losing quest to have the election result overturned.
The usually perfunctory ritual – in which 538 electors meet in their respective state capitals to rubber-stamp the result of the November election – drew unusual scrutiny this year as Mr. Trump has refused to concede defeat. The President has claimed without evidence that the election was rigged, and demanded that both the courts and legislators block Mr. Biden from taking power.
But the voting unfolded according to plan Monday. Mr. Biden took 306 electoral votes to Mr. Trump’s 232. He also beat Mr. Trump by a 4.5 per cent margin in the popular vote last month.
The final step in the process will come on Jan. 6 when Congress will receive the Electoral College’s votes. Vice President Mike Pence, who will chair the session, will be expected to then formally declare the winner. Some Republican legislators have vowed to dispute the result at that meeting.
In a speech in Delaware Monday evening, Mr. Biden said the result proved that the electoral system had survived Mr. Trump’s onslaught. He thanked officials across the country for not bending to pressure from the President.
“The flame of democracy was lit in this nation a long time ago. And we now know that nothing, not even a pandemic or an abuse of power, can extinguish that flame,” he said. “Democracy prevailed.”
Mr. Trump, for his part, tweeted Monday that there was “massive fraud” in the election, despite elections officials in all states certifying that the results of the vote were valid. The President also announced the resignation of Attorney-General Bill Barr, who earlier this month confirmed that his investigations had turned up no evidence of voter fraud.
In Michigan, legislative leaders shut down the state capitol building in Lansing Monday because of unspecified “credible threats of violence,” according to the office of the state senate’s majority leader. Only the state’s 16 members of the Electoral College, governor, lieutenant-governor and a handful of staffers were allowed in. The electors were escorted to the building by police.
One Republican member of the legislature, Gary Eisen, warned that he and fellow legislators planned some sort of disruption to the Electoral College vote. “It is dangerous,” he said in an interview with WPHM talk radio, before refusing to guarantee that there would be no violence.
A group of Republican officials later tried to crash the meeting in order to vote in place of Mr. Biden’s electors. Video from the scene showed police turning them back at a side door to the legislature. The key swing state, which Mr. Trump won by fewer than 11,000 votes in 2016 backed Mr. Biden by more than 154,000 last month.
“It was a safe, fair and secure election,” Governor Gretchen Whitmer said, shortly before all 16 electors voted for Mr. Biden and his vice-presidential running mate, Kamala Harris. “Now is the time to put the election behind us and defeat our common enemy, COVID-19.”
One Michigan congressman, Paul Mitchell, on Monday announced he was leaving the party over his disgust with its support for Mr. Trump’s attempts to reverse Mr. Biden’s victory. He said he would sit as an independent.
“This party has to stand up for democracy first, for our constitution first, and not political considerations,” he said on CNN. “Not to protect a candidate, not simply for raw political power, and that’s what I feel is going on and I’ve had enough.”
In Georgia, former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams presided over the casting of the state’s Electoral College votes for Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris. Ms. Abrams’s drive to register voters has been widely credited with delivering the state for the Democratic presidential ticket for the first time in 28 years. “We stand not for ourselves and not for our party, but for the people of Georgia,” she said.
The President’s loyalists said they wouldn’t give up.
On Fox News Stephen Miller, a White House advisor to Mr. Trump, said “alternate” pro-Trump electors would also vote in swing states that went to Mr. Biden. The President would then try to get Congress to accept those votes instead of the actual Electoral College results.
Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks has said he will challenge the Electoral College results in five states won by Mr. Biden when they are received by Congress on Jan. 5. Such a challenge, which would require both houses of Congress to vote to overturn the results, is unlikely to succeed. Democrats control the House of Representatives, and at least four Republican senators have said they accept that Mr. Biden won the election.
The courts have uniformly rebuffed Mr. Trump’s election lawsuits, while Republicans officials in several swing states refused the President’s demands that they seat his electors instead of Mr. Biden’s. Most Republican politicians, however, have either supported Mr. Trump’s claims of election fraud or remained silent. Only a handful have acknowledged that Mr. Biden won.
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