Presidential electors are meeting across the United States on Monday to formally choose Joe Biden as the nation’s next president.
Monday is the day set by law for the meeting of the electoral college. In reality, electors meet in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to cast their ballots. By midday, voters from Vermont, New Hampshire, Tennessee and Indiana had done so.
The results will be sent to Washington and tallied in a Jan. 6 joint session of Congress over which Vice-President Mike Pence will preside.
The electors’ votes have drawn more attention than usual this year because President Donald Trump has refused to concede the election and continued to make baseless allegations of fraud.
There have been concerns about safety for the electors, virtually unheard of in previous years. In Michigan, for example, lawmakers from both parties have reported receiving threats.
Legislative offices there were closed Monday over threats of violence. The 16 electors will meet in the Senate chamber in a ceremony headed by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Biden won the state by 154,000 votes, or 2.8 percentage points, over Trump.
Amber McCann, spokesperson for Mike Shirkey, the Republican senate majority leader in Michigan, said the closures were made on recommendations from law enforcement.
“The decision was not made because of anticipated protests, but was made based on credible threats of violence,” she said.
Whitmer was targeted in an alleged kidnapping plot that led to arrests in October.
Biden to give televised address after votes occur
Biden is planning to address the nation Monday night, after the electors have voted. Trump, meanwhile, is clinging to his false claims that he won the election, but also undermining Biden’s presidency even before it begins.
“No, I worry about the country having an illegitimate president, that’s what I worry about. A president that lost and lost badly,” Trump said in a Fox News interview that was taped Saturday.
Following weeks of Republican legal challenges that were easily dismissed by judges, Trump and Republican allies tried to persuade the Supreme Court last week to set aside 62 electoral votes for Biden in four states, which might have thrown the outcome into doubt.
The justices rejected the effort on Friday.
Biden won 306 electoral votes to 232 votes for Trump, well above the threshold of 270 votes needed to win. Biden was leading in the popular vote count by about seven million votes.
Voters can’t go rogue, Supreme Court says
In 2016, Trump won the electoral college despite losing the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton by nearly three million votes. The formal vote earned extra attention when some Democratic activists called for electors to “go rogue” against Trump. In the end, seven electors broke ranks — choosing people like Colin Powell and Bernie Sanders — an unusually high number but still far too few to sway the outcome.
In 32 states and the District of Columbia, laws require electors to vote for the popular-vote winner. The Supreme Court unanimously upheld this arrangement in July.
Electors almost always vote for the state winner anyway because they generally are devoted to their political party. There’s no reason to expect any defections this year. Among prominent electors are Democrat Stacey Abrams of Georgia and Republican Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota.
The voting is decidedly low tech, by paper ballot. Electors cast one vote each for president and vice-president.
The Electoral College was the product of compromise during the drafting of the Constitution between those who favoured electing the president by popular vote and those who opposed giving the people the power to choose their leader.
Each state gets a number of electors equal to their total number of seats in Congress: two senators plus however many members the state has in the House of Representatives. Washington, D.C., has three votes, under a constitutional amendment that was ratified in 1961. With the exception of Maine and Nebraska, states award all their electoral college votes to the winner of the popular vote in their state.
The bargain struck by the nation’s founders has produced five elections in which the president did not win the popular vote. Trump was the most recent example in 2016.
Mo Brooks, a conservative Republican congressman, has vowed to file challenges when Congress reviews the vote on Jan. 6, though it is all but certain both chambers would reject his effort. Democrats control the House, while several moderate Republicans in the Senate have already publicly accepted Biden’s victory.
Biden is scheduled to be inaugurated as the 46th U.S. president on Jan. 20.