Electoral College Vote Underway: Live Updates
The Electoral College vote started on Monday morning in states across the country, in a move that will officially designate Joseph R. Biden Jr. as the president-elect and pass a crucial milestone that President Trump has sought to upend with legal challenges and political pressure to overturn the results of a popular election.
“It’s not just out of tradition but to show folks, especially now more than ever, our system works,” said Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, a Republican, in opening remarks before the state’s four electors cast their ballots for Mr. Biden.
And in Vermont, the state’s electors gathered for a basic rite of democracy normally invisible to the public. But this year, because of Mr. Trump’s ongoing campaign to subvert the election, the session was carried live by national news outlets. The state’s three electors, dressed casually, gathered in an empty, ornate statehouse chamber and signed their names to votes for Mr. Biden on six certificates.
Vermont and New Hampshire were two of a handful of states, including Indiana and Tennessee, where electors gathered at around 10 a.m. Eastern. Voting will continue throughout the day, with the schedule determined by individual states. California, the state with the most electors, will most likely push Mr. Biden past the 270-vote threshold needed to win the presidency when it votes at 5 p.m. Eastern.
Nevada’s six electors all cast their votes for Mr. Biden, as expected, holding their ballots in front of the camera during the virtual meeting, and voters in Georgia cast their ballots, giving Mr. Biden 16 electoral votes. The states are two of five that some of Mr. Trump’s closest allies in the House are eyeing to challenge on Jan. 6 in a final-stage effort — all but certain to fail — to reverse Mr. Biden’s victory.
Though the meeting of the Electoral College is an important moment in American democracy, it is rarely one that becomes a major political event. But as the president has continued his quixotic campaign to subvert the election, the vote on Monday has loomed as an important deadline, made all the more unusual because there was no state in which the vote was close enough to leave its result in doubt.
Despite the definitive defeat in the Electoral College, Mr. Trump has remained defiant, spending his weekend attacking the Supreme Court for rejecting a Texas lawsuit against four battleground states and issuing more baseless accusations about the election from his Twitter account. The president has shown no indication he intends to concede the election.
The increasingly caustic remarks from the president have kept tensions high, with some states providing security for the sites where the electors will convene and protests expected in some swing states that Mr. Trump has targeted in recent weeks.
The vote will largely remove any cover for Republicans in Congress who have refused to acknowledge Mr. Biden as the president-elect. In providing Mr. Trump the room to dispute his loss, Republicans in Congress presented the Electoral College vote as the new marker for when a presidential victory should be recognized.
“Everything before Monday is really a projection,” Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee told Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “If the president loses, and it appears that he will when the electors vote, he should put the country first, take pride in his accomplishments, congratulate Joe Biden and help him off to a good start.”
The Monday vote was not in doubt. But Mr. Alexander’s appearance on Sunday showed the party’s tortured position as it seeks to accommodate the anti-democratic push of its standard-bearer.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court for the second time this month denied President Trump’s attempt to invalidate more than 200,000 votes in the state’s two biggest Democratic bastions, ending his efforts to overturn the result of the election just hours before the Electoral College is set to cast the state’s 10 votes for President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.
On a 4-3 decision, the conservative-leaning court rejected the Trump campaign’s attempt to throw out votes in Milwaukee County and Dane County, which includes Madison. The campaign had asked courts to throw out votes cast by voters who declared themselves indefinitely confined, voters who delivered absentee ballots at October events hosted by the Madison city clerk, voters who cast ballots at in-person early-voting sites and absentee ballots in which the voter’s witness did not provide their entire mailing address.
“We conclude the Campaign is not entitled to the relief it seeks,” wrote conservative Justice Brian Hagedorn, who sided with the court’s three liberal justices.
The Wisconsin court had already rejected the Trump campaign’s lawsuit Dec. 3, ruling 4-3 that it could not file it directly with the state’s high court. The Trump campaign refiled the suit in the lower courts and the Supreme Court then expedited it and heard oral arguments in a rare Saturday session.
Monday’s ruling snuffs out the faint legal hope Mr. Trump had of flipping Wisconsin from Mr. Biden, who won the state by 20,000 votes out of 3.2 million cast.
The Trump lawsuit did not allege any fraud in Wisconsin’s election. Instead it argued that municipal clerks in Milwaukee County and Dane County, which includes Madison, should not have been allowed to complete address forms for witnesses to absentee ballots, which the Wisconsin Elections Commission had given them permission to do. State law requires absentee voters to have witnesses sign their ballot envelopes.
The suit did not seek to invalidate ballots cast anywhere else in the state — where voters are far more likely to have supported Mr. Trump.
The lawsuit also asked the court to invalidate ballots that were collected by the Madison municipal clerk at October gatherings in city parks, though those events were also blessed by the elections commission.
It also sought to throw out ballots cast by voters who declared themselves indefinitely confined to their homes during the coronavirus pandemic.
And, in its boldest argument, the Trump campaign argued that all in-person absentee ballots were cast in violation of state law — an assertion that would have thrown out its own lawyer’s vote.
There has never been a Monday quite like this one — an unmistakable, if unpredictable, coinciding pivot for the presidency and a pandemic that has killed nearly 300,000 Americans.
State by state, the typically unobserved clockworks of American democracy began to click into place as electors ratified the victory of the 46th president of the United States, Joseph R. Biden Jr., despite attempts by the 45th president to subvert the results by strong-arming local Republicans to overturn the will of voters.
Around 10 a.m. Eastern, electors in Indiana, New Hampshire, Tennessee and Vermont had gathered for the formal process of affirming Mr. Biden’s clear national victory. There was no doubt about the outcome— despite President Trump’s efforts to encourage the belief that there was — and the president-elect was expected to pass the necessary threshold by early evening.
In a sign of a new abnormal ushered in by Mr. Trump’s behavior, electors in some states have had to deliberate in tight security, sometimes in out-of-the-way locations, after they have been threatened for simply doing their constitutional duty.
At the same time, other machinery — more industrial than ceremonial — was set into motion as the first batches of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine, which left a plant in Michigan Sunday evening to the cheering of onlookers, began arriving in virus-ravaged cities around the country.
Federal officials said 145 sites were set to receive the vaccine on Monday, 425 on Tuesday and 66 on Wednesday. A majority of the first injections are expected to be given to high-risk health care workers on Monday, although the relatively small amount of vaccine delivered will fall short of offering protection to all those who are eligible to get it.
But it could signal the beginning of the end.
On Monday, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, who will continue on as a central federal architect of the virus response under Mr. Biden, said he believed most Americans who wanted the vaccine could probably get it by later March or early April.
In an interview with MSNBC, Mr. Fauci said that plans to vaccinate Mr. Biden were “under discussion” amid reports that White House officials had planned to vaccinate top-level Trump administration officials.
Mr. Trump, whose efforts to downplay the severity of the pandemic were a focus of the election, began the day, as he often does lately, posting a tweet laden with falsehoods about the “Rigged Election.” The message was flagged by the social media platform.
Yet, the president, who remains eager to take credit for the unprecedented scientific effort to rush the development of the vaccine, could not deny himself a victory lap on the day his political defeat was to become formal.
“First Vaccine Administered. Congratulations USA! Congratulations WORLD!” he wrote.
The members of the Electoral College are gathering in their respective states today to cast their official ballots for president. Here’s more on how the voting will work, and on the next steps in the process:
Can I watch the Electoral College vote?
Yes — most states offer livestreams to watch the proceedings, including crucial battlegrounds won by President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. Here are links for four of them: Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Georgia.
The electors don’t meet in one place or at the same time; some start at 10 a.m. Eastern, and most vote in the afternoon.
How does the Electoral College voting work?
The electors cast their ballots for president and vice president via paper ballot. Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia legally require their electors to choose whoever won the state’s popular vote, so there should be no surprises there. The other 17 states don’t “bind” their electors, meaning they can vote for whomever they choose. But the likelihood of “faithless electors” switching sides and handing the election to President Trump is essentially zero.
After the votes are counted,the electors sign certificates showing the results. These are paired with certificates from the governor’s office showing the state’s vote totals. The certificates are sent to Vice President Mike Pence, in his capacity as president of the Senate; the Office of the Federal Register; the secretary of state of the respective state; and the chief judge of the Federal District Court where the electors meet.
What happens next?
Congress officially counts the votes in a joint session held in the House chamber on Jan. 6, with Mr. Pence presiding. When Mr. Biden reaches a majority with 270 votes, Mr. Pence announces the result.
The session cannot be ended until the count is complete and the result publicly declared. At this point, the election is officially decided. The only remaining task is the inauguration on Jan. 20.
Can members of Congress block the results?
There is no debate permitted during the counting of the electoral votes. But after the result is read, members of Congress get one opportunity to lodge their concerns.
Any objection to a state’s results must be made in writing and be signed by at least one senator and one member of the House. The two chambers would then separate to debate the objection. Each member of Congress can speak only once — for five minutes — and after two hours the debate is cut off. Each body then votes on whether to reject the state’s results.
What’s the likelihood of Congress changing the outcome?
Stopping Mr. Biden from assuming office remains a long-shot strategy for Republicans.
For an objection to stand, it must pass both houses of Congress by a simple majority. If the vote followed party lines, Republicans could not block Mr. Biden’s victory.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers is set to unveil legislation on Monday that would infuse the shuddering economy with up to $908 billion in coronavirus relief, offering their proposal as a remedy to the stalemate in negotiations for another relief bill meant to stem the economic fallout from the pandemic.
They are expected to put forward two separate pieces of legislation, with one bill carving out compromises on the two most polarizing provisions — $160 billion to bolster state and local governments, and a temporary liability shield to protect businesses, nonprofits, schools and hospitals from lawsuits related to the pandemic.
The second package would include the remaining $748 billion allotted for more widely supported proposals to fund vaccine distribution, schools, unemployment insurance benefits, small businesses and other institutions struggling to stay afloat because of the pandemic.
Some of the relief programs created this year are set to expire next week, putting millions of Americans at risk of losing government support as the health crisis continues in their communities. Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California is expected to speak with Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, on Monday as they work to reach a deal on both government funding and coronavirus relief.
The decision to present the $908 billion framework in two parts reflects, to some degree, a push from Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, to approve a narrow measure that excludes the contentious issues. Democrats have been resistant to a liability shield they say could harm worker protections, and Republicans have been reluctant to support what they have derided as a “blue state bailout” for state and local governments.
It is unclear, however, how the legislation compiled by the moderate bipartisan group will factor into a final deal. The group — which includes Senators Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia and Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia — has huddled for days to hammer out the details of the framework, which it outlined shortly after Thanksgiving.
The release of legislative text comes as Congress stares down a Friday deadline to complete a must-pass government funding bill, which lawmakers and aides are close to finishing. Agreement on that spending legislation could emerge as soon as Monday.
Despite recently suffering the most consequential in a string of defeats in his quest to subvert the results of November’s election, President Trump continued to insist over the weekend that his plans to challenge his loss were “not over.”
“It’s not over. We keep going,” Mr. Trump said in an interview with Fox News that aired on Sunday and was taped on Saturday at the Army-Navy football game. “And we’re going to continue to go forward.”
The president’s vow to press on came after the Supreme Court rejected a Texas lawsuit against four battleground states, in effect ending his attempt to overturn the results. Mr. Trump’s allies have also lost dozens of times in lower courts. The Electoral College meets on Monday to cement President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s win.
Many top Republicans in Congress continued to stand by Mr. Trump in refusing to recognize Mr. Biden as the president-elect. Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 House Republican, did so again on Sunday, arguing on “Fox News Sunday” that the legal process was not over despite the Supreme Court ruling.
“There will be a president sworn in on Jan. 20, but let this process play out,” he said.
Some party elders, though, have begun to say more than a month after Election Day that it is time to move on.
“The courts have resolved the disputes. It looks very much like the electors will vote for Joe Biden,” said Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, in a prerecorded interview aired Sunday by NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Mr. Trump has made baseless claim after baseless claim of election fraud in his attempt to deny Mr. Biden’s victory. Some states “got rigged and robbed from us,” he falsely claimed in the Fox interview. “But we won every one of them.”
When the interviewer, Brian Kilmeade, tried to ask if Mr. Trump would attend Mr. Biden’s inauguration, Mr. Trump interrupted. “I don’t want to talk about that,” he said. “I want to talk about this. We’ve done a great job.”
He also tore into Attorney General William P. Barr again for not violating Justice Department guidelines against publicly discussing open cases and trying to keep information from leaking out about an investigation into the finances of Mr. Biden’s son, Hunter, during the presidential campaign.
Mr. Trump, who spent months denouncing the work of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, used Mr. Mueller as a positive example when compared with Mr. Barr.
The president noted that Mr. Mueller had said that an article by BuzzFeed News claiming that Mr. Trump had directed his lawyer to lie to Congress was flawed. He argued that Mr. Barr should have contradicted Mr. Biden’s statements in one of the presidential debates minimizing questions about his son.
“Bill Barr, I believe — not believe, I know — had an obligation to set the record straight, just like Robert Mueller set the record straight,” Mr. Trump said, saying that Mr. Mueller “stood up” against a false report.
After a steep decline in border crossings through much of this year, interceptions of unauthorized migrants are climbing again, setting the stage for the first significant challenge to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s pledge to adopt a more compassionate policy along America’s 1,100-mile border with Mexico.
Detentions in October were up 30 percent over September, and the figure in coming months is expected be even higher, despite the biting cold in the Sonoran desert.
The rising numbers suggest that the Trump administration’s expulsion policy, an emergency measure to halt spread of the coronavirus, is encouraging migrants to make repeated tries, in ever-more-remote locations, until they succeed in crossing the frontier undetected.
And they are likely the leading edge of a much more substantial surge toward the border, immigration analysts say, as a worsening economy in Central America, the disaster wrought by Hurricanes Eta and Iota and expectations of a more lenient U.S. border policy drive ever-larger numbers toward the United States.
“If there is a perception of more-humane policies, you are likely to see an increase of arrivals at the border,” said T. Alexander Aleinikoff, director of the Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility at the New School in New York.
“That doesn’t mean that those flows cannot be adequately handled with a comprehensive set of policies that are quite different from Trump’s,” said Mr. Aleinikoff, “but you need a well-functioning bureaucracy to handle it.”
Mr. Biden has vowed to begin undoing the “damage” inflicted by the Trump administration’s border policies. He has said he will end a program that has returned tens of thousands of asylum seekers to Mexico and restore the country’s historical role as a safe haven for people fleeing persecution.
But swiftly reversing Trump administration policies could be construed as opening the floodgates, risking a rush to the border that could quickly devolve into a humanitarian crisis.
Any misstep would threaten a replay of 2014 and 2016, when the Obama administration scrambled to stem a chaotic influx of migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Human-rights groups were outraged when families and children were locked up and deportations were accelerated. Immigration hard-liners attacked Mr. Obama for allowing tens of thousands to enter the United States and remain in the country while their asylum cases wound through the courts, which can take years.
With high stakes for both parties, early voting started on Monday in the Senate runoff races in Georgia. The two contests will determine whether Republicans can maintain their majority in the chamber.
Both of the state’s Republican senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, were forced into runoffs against Democratic challengers. Mr. Perdue faces Jon Ossoff, the chief executive of a media production company; Ms. Loeffler is being challenged by the Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock, the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, a prominent pulpit in Atlanta that had once belonged to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Since Election Day, the runoffs, scheduled for Jan. 5, have been impossible to escape for Georgia voters. Ads from candidates have blanketed local television and radio stations, and coverage of the campaigns dominate the local news media. In and around Atlanta, roadside signs urge residents to get out and vote — once again.
The voting began as Georgia has been in the center of the national political spotlight for weeks. Because of their outsize role in deciding the partisan balance of the Senate, the runoffs have drawn a substantial amount of outside attention and investment.
State Democrats have been newly invigorated, with President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. becoming the first presidential candidate from the party to win Georgia since 1992. Mr. Biden will visit the state on Tuesday to campaign for Mr. Warnock and Mr. Ossoff.
Georgia has also been a primary stage in President Trump’s fight to challenge the outcome of the presidential election, sparking conflict among state Republicans as Mr. Trump raised baseless claims of election fraud and attacked the state’s governor, Brian Kemp, a Republican.
Mr. Trump continued his criticism over the weekend. “What a fool Governor @BrianKempGA of Georgia is,” the president said in a Twitter post on Sunday. He repeated his argument that Mr. Kemp should have called a special session of the State Legislature in an effort to overturn the election in his favor. And he argued that the situation could spell for a “bad day for two GREAT Senators on January 5th.”