US election live: Electoral College voting underway to confirm Joe Biden

Electors are gathering in 50 states and the District of Columbia on Monday to formally vote for the next president.

Most states have laws binding their electors to the winner of the popular vote in their state.

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Democrat Joe Biden won the November 3 election with 306 Electoral College votes, while President Donald Trump finished with 232. It takes 270 Electoral College votes to win the presidency.

TALLY OF ELECTORAL COLLEGE VOTES:

Democrat Joe Biden: 166
Republican Donald Trump: 123

Some US state buildings have been closed during the voting, sue to “credible threats of violence”.

Pennsylvania cast its 20 electoral votes for Democrat Joe Biden, the native son whose win in the state last month cemented his overall victory against President Donald Trump.

The 20 electors were socially distanced in a cavernous auditorium near the Capitol, meeting there instead of the floor of the state House because of the pandemic.

One by one, each elector walked up to the auditorium stage and dropped his or her ballot into a box designed by Benjamin Franklin. The electors gave the vote tally a standing ovation.

Nancy Mills, president of the state’s Electoral College, noted it was Pennsylvania that put Biden over the 270-vote threshold needed to claim the White House.

She says, “We are the state that returned the dignity and honor to the United States of America.”

Some Republicans, who refuse to acknowledge the reality of President-elect Joe Biden’s win, met to cast ceremonial votes for President Donald Trump.

The Trump loyalists in Pennsylvania met in Harrisburg and cast what they described as a “conditional vote” for Trump. The state Republican Party says the Trump electors met at the request of the campaign.

In Georgia, another battleground state Trump lost, an alternate Republican slate cast ceremonial votes for Trump at the same time Georgia’s 16 Electoral College votes were cast for Biden.

The opposition to Biden has no practical effect on the electoral process, with the Democrat set to be sworn in on January 20.

Wisconsin cast its 10 Electoral College votes for Democrat Joe Biden.

It came about an hour after the Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit from President Donald Trump seeking to overturn the election results.

For Democrats, the Electoral College vote signaled the end of a long fight to win back the state Trump carried in 2016.

“We made it,” said Democratic Governor Tony Evers, one of the state’s electors, after the vote was announced.

In Ohio, electors cast their 18 votes for President Donald Trump.

Trump won the state’s vote in November by more than 8 percentage points. It was the first time in 60 years that the state’s voters did not side with the ultimate winner.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced the vote shortly after roll call was taken at an in-person Electoral College session at the Ohio Statehouse. Republican delegates all wore masks, socially distanced and used specially provided pens because of the coronavirus.

Among the Ohio electors was Ken Blackwell, a Trump loyalist and former Ohio secretary of state who presided over the contentious Bush-Kerry contest of 2004; Bob Paduchik, an Ohioan who served as senior adviser to Trump’s reeelection campaign; and Lucas County GOP Chair Mark Wagoner, whose father was the first to die of Covid-19 in the state.

North Carolina awarded its 15 electoral votes to President Donald Trump.

An energised base of supporters, vigorous in-person campaign schedule and appeal to rural voters fueled Trump’s 1.3 percentage point win over Democratic President-elect Joe Biden in the state.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Biden largely stayed off the physical campaign trail, instead choosing to do virtual events or smaller in-person gatherings with mask wearing and physical distancing. He did not personally visit the state in the last 16 days of the election.

Biden benefited from a surge in mail-in voting but fell short of a plurality of the more than 5.5 million ballots cast.

Trump defeated then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the state in 2016 by 3.7 percentage points. Former President Barack Obama is the most recent Democratic presidential candidate to win North Carolina, which he did in 2008.

Arizona’s 11 Electoral College members cast their votes for Democrat Joe Biden for president.

Biden won the November 3 poll in Arizona by nearly 10,500 votes, becoming the first Democratic since President Bill Clinton in 1996 to carry the traditionally Republican state.

Fueled by claims from Trump, some Arizona Republicans continue to question Biden’s victory in the state. Trump backers have filed multiple lawsuits trying to have the Arizona results set aside, but state and federal courts have rejected all but one of them.

Some are being appealed, and the remaining case has a hearing Monday.

Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs presided over the ceremony where the electors signed the certificates confirming Biden’s win. She had harsh words for the politicisation of this year’s process, saying it had “an artificial shadow” hanging over it because of baseless accusations of voter fraud.

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 favored electing the president by popular vote and those who opposed giving the people the power to directly choose their leader.

Each state gets a number of electors equal to its total number of seats in Congress: two senators plus however many members the state has in the House of Representatives. Washington, DC, 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.

Even as the Electoral College was convening, Trump continued to tweet claims of fraud.

Georgia’s 16 Electoral College votes were cast for Democrat Joe Biden for president.

The state’s Democratic electors convened in the Senate chamber of the state Capitol on Monday.

The electors included former candidate for governor Stacey Abrams, congresswoman-elect Nikema Williams, several state lawmakers, local politicians and Democratic activists.

The group limited themselves to sitting in every other row, with an empty desk between each person. They all wore face masks to protect against the coronavirus, and the audience was limited to a few members of the press and some support staff.

The electors each marked a paper ballot that was then collected, counted and confirmed by a voice roll call.

Abrams then read out the results, saying, “I’m pleased to announce that Joseph R. Biden has received 16 votes for president of the United States,” to applause.

The vote formally seals Biden’s win in the battleground state, where he beat President Donald Trump by about 12,000 votes. The result of the November election was confirmed by two recounts, including an audit that triggered a full hand tally of ballots.

Earlier, Nevada’s six Democratic presidential electors awarded their votes for Joe Biden, becoming the first slate of electors from a battleground state to cast their votes.

The ceremony on Monday took place over Zoom due to the coronavirus pandemic. It took less than 20 minutes and finished without any surprises.

Biden defeated Trump by 33,596 votes, or 2.4 percentage points, in Nevada.

Although Democrats’ margin of victory was similar to the 2016 election, the state’s slow vote-counting pace and a result that appeared tight on Election Night vaulted the western battleground into the national spotlight.

Trump eyed the state as a pick-up opportunity, visiting three times in the lead-up to the election. Biden visited once for an event with Latino groups and a drive-in rally.

Vermont’s three representatives to the Electoral College on Monday cast the state’s presidential ballots for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

In Tennessee, 11 representatives to the Electoral College cast their votes for President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

Four Electoral College votes from New Hampshire went to Biden, and 11 from Indiana went to Trump. Electors in other states also have begun voting.

Michigan legislative offices were closed because of threats of violence as presidential electors prepared to gather

The 16 electors were to meet Monday afternoon in the Senate chamber, at a ceremony chaired by Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

Biden won the state by 154,000 votes, or 2.8 percentage points, over President Donald Trump.

The Capitol building was closed to the public due to coronavirus restrictions except when lawmakers meet for a legislative session.

A spokesperson for Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey says legislators’ offices in the statehouse and nearby buildings also were closed based on recommendations from law enforcement.

Spokeswoman Amber McCann said, “The decision was not made because of anticipated protests but was made based on credible threats of violence.”

Earlier this year, law enforcement said it uncovered a plot to kidnap Whitmer. The ringleader is alleged to have also discussed attacking the Michigan Capitol during session and executing “tyrants”.

A Republican lawmaker from Michigan has been disciplined for not denouncing potential violence. State Republican Gary Eisen of St. Clair Township told WPHM-AM on Monday that he planned to help with an unspecified “Hail Mary” GOP plan to challenge the election, conceding the “uncharted” action likely would not change the result.

Asked if he could guarantee people’s safety, he said “no.”

House Speaker Lee Chatfield and Speaker-elect Jason Wentworth, both Republicans, removed Eisen from committees in the closing days of the two-year session. In a statement, they said threats or suggestions of violence in politics were never acceptable, including “when the public officials open the door to violent behavior and refuse to condemn it. We must do better”.

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.

The results of the Electoral College votes will be sent to Washington and tallied in a January 6 joint session of Congress over which Pence will preside.

The electors’ votes have drawn more attention than usual this year because Trump has refused to concede the election and continues to make unsupported allegations of fraud.

However, there was no widespread fraud. This has been confirmed by election officials across the country and by Attorney General William Barr.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Monday rejected President Donald Trump’s lawsuit attempting to overturn his loss to Democrat Joe Biden in the battleground state, ending Trump’s legal challenges in state court about an hour before the Electoral College was to meet.

The ruling came after the court held arguments Saturday, the same day a federal judge dismissed another Trump lawsuit seeking to overturn his loss in the state. Trump appealed that ruling.

Trump sought to have more than 221,000 ballots disqualified in Dane and Milwaukee counties, the state’s two most heavily Democratic counties. He wanted to disqualify absentee ballots cast early and in-person, saying there wasn’t a proper written request made for the ballots; absentee ballots cast by people who claimed “indefinitely confined” status; absentee ballots collected by poll workers at Madison parks; and absentee ballots where clerks filled in missing information on ballot envelopes.

Liberal Justice Jill Karofsky blasted Trumps’ case during Saturday’s hearing, saying it “smacks of racism” and was “un-American.”

Conservative justices voiced some concerns about how certain ballots were cast, while also questioning whether they could or should disqualify votes only in two counties.

Biden won Wisconsin by about 20,600 votes, a margin of 0.6 per cent that withstood a Trump-requested recount in Milwaukee and Dane counties, the two with the most Democratic votes. Trump did not challenge any ballots cast in the counties he won.

Trump and his allies have suffered dozens of defeats in Wisconsin and across the country in lawsuits that rely on unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud and election abuse.

On Friday, the US Supreme Court rejected a Texas lawsuit that sought to invalidate Biden’s win by throwing out millions of votes in four battleground states, including Wisconsin.

Also Saturday, former Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell asked the US Supreme Court to hear a federal case she lost in Wisconsin seeking to order the GOP-controlled Legislature to declare Trump the winner. Powell has also lost similar cases in Georgia and Arizona. – AP

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