WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — The Electoral College formally chose Joe Biden on Monday as the nation’s next president, giving him a solid electoral majority of 306 votes and confirming his victory in last month’s election. The state-by-state voting took on added importance this year because of President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede he had lost.
Monday was 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. 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.
California’s 55 electoral votes put Biden over the top. Vermont, with 3 votes, was the first state to report. Hawaii, with 4 votes, was the last.
“In this battle for the soul of America, democracy prevailed,” Biden said in remarks during an evening speech after the Electoral College affirmed his win. “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.”
Biden renewed his campaign promise to be a president for all Americans, whether they voted for him or not, and said the country has hard work ahead on the virus and economy.
There was no concession from the White House, where Trump has continued to make unsupported allegations of fraud.
Vermont’s three electors were the first in the nation to vote Monday, casting ballots for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
Over a Zoom ceremony that took less than 20 minutes, Nevada’s six Democratic presidential electors have awarded their votes for Biden, becoming the first slate of electors from a battleground state to cast their votes.
Illinois electors met in the Illinois House chamber while observing social-distance rules to vote 20-0 in favor of Biden. “The election is affirmed. It is now time for us as a country to move forward, transition in full, and embrace the promise of a new administration …,” Illinois Electoral College chairwoman, Lori Lightfoot, the mayor of Chicago said.
In Arkansas, the state’s members of the electoral college met for about 45 minutes in the Old Supreme Court Chamber of the state Capitol in Little Rock. “This is a very historic time,” Doyle Webb, who was elected chairman of the state’s electors, said after six votes were cast for President Donald Trump and Vice President Pence.
After Iowa’s six Republican electors formally cast votes for Trump, Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate and elector was unwilling to declare Biden the president-elect, When asked about Trump’s pending legal challenges he said, “You’ve got to let it work itself through. The last thing you want is for Americans to feel they were shortchanged on their vote.”
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.
“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 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.
There were concerns about safety for the electors, virtually unheard of in previous years. In Michigan, lawmakers from both parties reported receiving threats.
Legislative offices there were closed Monday over threats of violence. The 16 electors were to 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, spokeswoman for Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, said the closures were made on recommendations from law enforcement “based on credible threats of violence.”
Georgia state police were out in force at the state Capitol in Atlanta before Democratic electors pledged to Biden met. There were no protesters to be seen less than a hour ahead of the meeting.
Despite Biden’s wins in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Republicans who would have been Trump electors met anyway. Pennsylvania Republicans said they cast a “procedural vote” for Trump and Pence in case courts that have repeatedly rejected challenges to Biden’s victory were to somehow still determine that Trump had won.
In North Carolina, Utah and other states across the country where Trump won, his electors turned out to duly cast their ballots for him. Electors in North Carolina had their temperatures checked before being allowed to enter the Capitol to vote.
Biden won 306 electoral votes to 232 votes for Trump. It takes 270 votes to be elected.
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 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 favored 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.
NewsNation spoke to one presidential elector for the state of Maryland to hear his take on what casting that vote meant to him:
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.
Biden topped Trump by more than 7 million votes this year.
And then there’s one more step: inauguration.
The Associated Press contributed to this report