Joe Biden officially clinched the presidency after the Electoral College confirmed his victory Monday, capping a tumultuous period sparked by Donald Trump’s refusal to acknowledge he lost with the help of Republicans willing to support his unsubstantiated claims.
Monday’s vote puts pressure on Senate Republicans and others who have refused to recognize Biden’s overwhelming victory — and in some cases worked to overturn the will of the voters — to finally acknowledge that Trump lost and Biden will be inaugurated as the 46th president on Jan. 20.
The 55 votes from California electors put Biden over the 270 needed to win. Electors in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia cast their ballots for president and vice president in time-honored constitutional ceremonies that took on new importance after Trump insisted without evidence that the election was “rigged.”
Congress will officially count the electoral votes on Jan. 6. But many Republicans haven’t publicly acknowledged Biden’s certified victory and the court rulings rejecting challenges to the results, saying Trump had a right to let the process play out.
And now it has.
Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said it would be a “bad mistake” to object to electors in Congress, calling any such move “futile and unnecessary.”
“I believe that we’ll see the page turning on January 20th,” he said. “We’ll have a peaceful transition.”
Trump said in an interview on Fox News that aired Sunday that he’ll continue with legal challenges, even after the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday rejected the bid by Texas to nullify the election results in four pivotal states — a case the president had called “the big one.”
The lawsuit sought to invalidate votes in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to install Trump for another term. Republican attorneys general in 18 states and 126 congressional Republicans — about two-thirds of the GOP caucus — had supported it.
Republicans said Trump electors who weren’t certified met in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to cast votes in case pending litigation overturned the results, even though the official electoral votes have the state’s seal. Any attempt to get Congress to consider a rival slate of electors is “not going to work as a matter of law,” said Edward Foley, a professor and director of an election-law program at Ohio State University who has studied disputed elections.
Biden is planning an address to the nation that will call on Americans to come together now that the process has concluded.
“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,” Biden said in prepared remarks his transition team announced he would deliver at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. “And so, now it is time to turn the page. To unite. To heal.”
The president’s campaign and his allies filed dozens of lawsuits seeking to invalidate Biden’s victories in the battleground states, and almost all were rejected for lack of evidence of fraud.
Rick Bloomingdale, a Biden elector in Pennsylvania, said before the meeting in Harrisburg that he was confident his vote would be counted and that Trump’s efforts to overturn the election would fail.
“At noon on January 20th, Joe Biden’s going to be president of the United States,” said Bloomingdale, president of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO. “It’s mind-boggling to me that we have people that are actually trying conduct a coup and take the votes away from the voters.”
Most electors met in their state capitals with restricted access and social distancing because of the coronavirus pandemic. Nevada conducted its meeting entirely by video conference, and Arizona didn’t publicly disclose the location of its gathering to keep it “low key.”
There were protests against Trump’s election outside the Electoral College meeting in some states in 2016, and there were reports of small demonstrations this year. Trump supporters gathered to rally in Washington on Saturday, at times clashing with counter-protesters and police.
Police escorted the Michigan electors from a parking garage to the State Capitol in Lansing, said elector Chris Cracchiolo, vice chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party.
“At the time I volunteered to do this, I thought it was somewhat ceremonial,” Cracchiolo said before the meeting. “Since November 3, the magnitude and importance of this role seems to magnify every day.”
The Michigan legislature was closed due to safety concerns, and the legislature stripped Republican state Representative Gary Eisen of his committee posts Monday after the lawmaker said he was going to be part of a potentially violent protest seeking to overturn the state’s Electoral College vote.
“I know this isn’t the outcome some want. It isn’t what I want, either,” Republican Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield said in a statement supporting the Electoral College vote for Biden. “But we have a republic if we can keep it. And I intend to.”
When U.S. voters mark ballots in a presidential race, they’re actually voting for a candidate’s slate of electors who cast that state’s electoral votes — one vote for each U.S. representative and senator. The candidate who gets a majority of the 538 electoral votes, or 270, wins the presidency.
Biden won 306 electoral votes from the 25 states and the District of Columbia he carried, and electors, who are generally selected by their political parties, are essentially committed to vote for the winner of the popular vote in their state. Trump captured 232 electoral votes from the 25 states he won.
There still could be some drama when Congress meets on Jan. 6 to tally the vote with Vice President Mike Pence presiding, if a member of the House and the Senate object to a state’s slate of electors. That would require each chamber to debate and vote on the objection.
Republican Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama has said he plans to make an objection, but so far no senator has emerged to join him. Seventy-five Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania also sent a Dec. 4 letter to the state’s congressional delegation urging them to object.
Any objection that reached a vote is likely to fail with Democrats controlling the House and enough Republican senators acknowledging Biden’s victory, said Nathaniel Persily, a Stanford University law professor and election-law expert.
But Monday’s meeting of electors is the last step for anyone waiting for the process to play out, Persily said.
“That constitutionally would be end of the road,” he said.
(Bloomberg’s Margaret Newkirk, David Welch, Amanda Albright, Brenna Goth, Alexander Ebert and Daniel Flatley contributed to this story.)