Electoral College vote affirms Biden's win

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 1221 GMT (2021 HKT) December 15, 2020
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5:38 p.m. ET, December 14, 2020

Biden formally clinches Electoral College victory with California's 55 votes

From CNN's Marshall Cohen and Ethan Cohen

Pool/KCRA
Pool/KCRA

President-elect Joe Biden has received enough electoral votes to officially clinch the presidency, a major milestone that he reached when California’s electors awarded him the state’s 55 electoral votes at their meeting Monday in Sacramento. 

CNN projected five weeks ago that Biden would win the White House, but his victory was formalized Monday after presidential electors gathered in statehouses across the country as part of the Constitutional process to officially elect a President. 

This development is a crushing blow to President Trump’s controversial and unprecedented attempts to block Biden's victory in the Electoral College by filing longshot lawsuits and pressuring lawmakers in battleground states to overturn millions of legal votes.

In California, Biden won more than 63% of the statewide vote, while Trump earned about 34%.

Democrats have won California’s electoral votes every cycle since 1992. The state voted for Republicans in the six presidential elections before that. 

About the process: The meeting of electors is the next major step in the Electoral College process to affirm the general election results. Electors are required by law to vote for president and vice president on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December, which this year is today. It takes 270 electoral votes of the 538 available to become president.

Watch the moment:

5:08 p.m. ET, December 14, 2020

Oregon casts its 7 electoral votes for Biden

From CNN's David Wright and Adam Levy

Oregon’s electors cast seven electoral votes for President-elect Joe Biden during their meeting on Monday in Salem.

Biden won Oregon, a reliably blue state, by about 16 points in 2020.  

The meeting of electors is the next major step in the Electoral College process to affirm the general election results. Electors are required by law to vote for president and vice president on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December, which this year is today.

It takes 270 electoral votes of the 538 available to become president. 

5:01 p.m. ET, December 14, 2020

California votes in 5 p.m. ET hour and is expected to put Biden over the 270 total 

From CNN's Jeremy Herb

California's electors vote around 5 p.m. ET, and are expected to put President-elect Joe Biden over the 270 total needed to win the White House.

Earlier today, the battleground states of Nevada, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Michigan and Wisconsin all sealed election victories for Biden as electors for all 50 states and the District of Columbia met in each state.

Hawaii will be the last state to cast its votes at 7 p.m. ET.

5:23 p.m. ET, December 14, 2020

Nebraska elector describes what it was like to cast the sole vote for Biden from the state

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

Precious McKesson
Precious McKesson CNN

Precious McKesson was the sole elector in Nebraska to cast the vote for President-elect Joe Biden today.

Nebraska is one of only two states that splits its electoral college votes. The Electoral College cast four votes for Trump and one for Biden.

"It was so monumental to be in a room with so many of my close friends and families and supporters. And when I walked in they started cheering me. It was an honor to do it today," McKesson told CNN's Dana Bash.

McKesson, who is the first woman of color to cast an electoral vote for a Democrat in the state, also explained why she became emotional when she cast a vote for the first woman and first Black vice president. "It meant so much," she said.

"It meant so much for many women who every day fight this good fight to make sure that our democracy is not taken for granted. And so to be able to cast that vote for Kamala Harris today, it meant the world to me. And I'm just so happy that I was able to do that, especially here in Nebraska. And we're just excited to see what the future holds and we can't wait until January 20th when they're worn in," she said.

McKesson also discussed how she was elected as the elector to cast the Democratic vote.

"Prior to me going to work for the Biden/Harris campaign, I do sit as the Black Caucus chair as well as the state Legislative District Holder. Before I'm able to work for them, we had the state convention and you have to go in front of your congressional district and you have to actually ask for them to nominate you and to vote for you. And so, I went in front of my peers and told them I felt that this would be the time for number one, a woman of color and a woman to cast that vote and they voted for me to be able to be the one to represent Congressional District 2."

Watch the full interview with McKesson:

4:53 p.m. ET, December 14, 2020

Your questions, answered: How challenges in Congress to the Electoral College's reported results could unfold 

Analysis from CNN's Zachary B. Wolf

CNN's Zachary B. Wolf is answering questions from readers about the Electoral College. You can ask your question here.

Here's a question from Cathy in Hawaii:

I am seeing conflicting information about what happens if conditions are met that require the two chambers of Congress to meet separately to consider a challenge by a congressional member to the results of the Electoral College's reported results. One reports that each chamber would then meet separately from the other to consider, then vote, with each senator and each representative having one vote, whether to support the challenge or not. In this scenario, Joe Biden would likely prevail. The other reports that each chamber would do the same EXCEPT in the House each state will have only one vote, not each representative – which would mean Trump would likely prevail. Which is correct? And would you provide a link to the description of this process of the laws covering such a possibility in our Constitution? 

Thank you for this very detailed and incredibly important technical question. Let me start at the end, where you ask for specific links to US law. Here’s a link to Title 3, section 15 of US Code, “Counting Electoral Votes in Congress,” which is about as impenetrable of legalese as you’re likely to see.

To your point, let me clarify the smart issue you’re raising:

  1. It is expected that House Republicans will object to the electoral vote count after it takes place Jan. 6. After the votes are counted by Vice President Mike Pence – in his capacity as president of the Senate – and he announces the winner, lawmakers have the ability to raise objections.
  2. If a senator joins in one or more of these objections, then the House and Senate go to their respective chambers and consider the objections. 
  3. If both chambers sustain the objections, a state’s electors could be discarded.

Ultimately, if electoral votes cast today are rejected this way, and as a result Biden doesn’t get 270 electoral votes, then the House picks the next president. And, as you note, House members would vote as state delegations in this process to pick the President — 50 total votes.

But the question is about the objections by which Republicans would seek votes to discard electoral votes. In these votes would they vote as state delegations or as members of Congress. If they vote as states, that benefits Republicans, who control more state delegations. If they vote as individuals, with 435 total votes, that benefits Democrats, since they hold a majority in the House.

The answer is that they would vote as individual members and Democrats should be able to defeat any objection. 

Here's why: While law linked above does not say specifically how congresspeople would vote, these objections about electoral votes have been raised twice before and in both instances, the House voted as a 435-member body, according to footnotes in this Congressional Research Service report.

In 1969, an objection was raised about a faithless elector who voted for George Wallace. The House and Senate both considered it and the House voted as a 435-member body. In 2004, California Sen. Barbara Boxer and Ohio Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones – both Democrats — objected to the electoral votes from the decisive state of Ohio. Again, the House voted as 435-member body.

It’s not at all clear how many Republicans in either the House or the Senate would vote to ignore voters and prop up a second Trump administration. 

4:58 p.m. ET, December 14, 2020

Montana casts its 3 electoral votes for Trump

From CNN's Ethan Cohen

Montana’s electors cast their three votes for President Trump during their meeting on Monday in Helena.

Trump won Montana by more than 16 percentage points.

Republican candidates have carried Montana in every presidential election since 1996.

Remember: The meeting of electors is the next major step in the Electoral College process to affirm the general election results. Electors are required by law to vote for president and vice president on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December, which this year is today.

It takes 270 electoral votes of the 538 available to become president.

Watch the moment:

4:41 p.m. ET, December 14, 2020

Washington state elector speaks emotionally about being a faithful elector despite being ill 

From CNN's Alison Main

One Washington state elector who said he is very ill spoke passionately and emotionally about serving as a faithful elector and casting his electoral votes for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris, in accordance with the will of the state's voters.

Jack Arends, one of Washington's 12 electors, said on Monday while he thinks the Electoral College is "not great," it is part of the US election system, so he was determined to do his role and cast his ballots for Biden and Harris.

"I did so enthusiastically, of my own choice. I did not need a law to tell me I had to do it," Arends said.

In Washington, each presidential candidate's chosen electors sign a pledge to vote for the nominee of the party that they represent, according to state law.

In 2016, three of Washington's presidential electors voted for Colin Powell rather than Hillary Clinton and one voted for anti-Keystone XL pipeline protester Faith Spotted Eagle. A $1,000 fine was upheld by the state Supreme Court.

Arends said he believed it was his "duty" to cast his vote affirming Biden's win in the state to "begin the end of the Trump administration" and "rid our nation of a petty dictator."

Arends told the body he is in failing health, so it will be up to others to rebuild the nation under a Biden administration.

"In November, I was told there is no more medical treatment that can help me, so it was important for me to do this one thing that I could do while I still can," he said.

Several more of Washington state's 12 electors were critical of the Electoral College in their post-vote speeches, with some speaking in support of reforming or even abolishing the system.

5:40 p.m. ET, December 14, 2020

Michigan congressman announces decision to leave GOP: "This party has to stand up for democracy first"

From CNN's Jake Tapper

Rep. Paul Mitchell
Rep. Paul Mitchell J. Scott Applewhite/AP/FILE

In an exclusive interview, Rep. Paul Mitchell, Republican of Michigan, told CNN that his disgust and disappointment with President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the results of the election have led him to request that the Clerk of the House change his party affiliation to "independent," and to notify GOP leaders in a letter that he is withdrawing his "engagement and association with the Republican Party at both the national and state level."

"I supported the administration policies 95, 96% of the time the last two terms. I've been actual in the national state party. But this party has to stand up for democracy first, for our constitutional first and not political considerations. It's not about a candidate. It's not simply for raw political power and that is what I feel is going on and I've had enough," Mitchell told CNN's Jake Tapper.

Mitchell, who is retiring at the end of this session of Congress, says he fears that the House GOP leadership's participation in the outgoing President's conspiracy theories and attempts to disenfranchise millions of American voters to overturn President-elect Joe Biden's victory could cause "long-term harm to our democracy."

"This election simply confirms to me that it's all about power first, and that frankly is disgusting and demoralizing," Mitchell said.

Asked about how he plans to respond to critics, Mitchell said he would stand "on my principles."

"Yes, I will take abuse from both the far left and the far right. In my opinion, the extremes of both parties are dragging their parties and this country off a cliff. The majority of Americans are in the middle," the congressman said. "The majority of Americans want solutions to problems, want us to address them and not see who can have a political win."

Mitchell added that he believed that the Texas lawsuit was "ridiculous" and he didn't "believe the brief was appropriate or valid."

"It's just blatantly an effort to say ‘we will do anything we can to overturn the election that we lost.’ I say in my letter, I've told you, Jake, anybody who gets into politics has to be willing to accept winning and losing with some level of grace and maturity. I've done both. Losing is brutal. It’s personal. It hurts. If you're not willing to accept that, you should not be in political leadership. You should not be," Mitchell said.

Mitchell was asked about the Michigan Republican House member who was stripped of his committee assignments today after saying there could be violent protests in the state capitol because of the electoral college vote.

"When you can't conduct an election without threats of violence, we become a third world nation. What are we, Venezuela? It's ridiculous," Mitchell told CNN.

Read Mitchell's full letter here.

Watch Rep. Mitchell's interview:

4:25 p.m. ET, December 14, 2020

Trump is looking past today's Electoral College vote to Jan. 6

From CNN's Jim Acosta

President Trump is already looking past today's electoral college vote as he sees one final avenue to block Joe Biden from becoming the next president — the official tallying of votes in the House of Representatives on Jan. 6, a White House adviser said. 

The adviser described the option as yet another "long shot," much like the Trump team legal challenges that went nowhere. 

The reality is the prospect of upending the election results in the House is more than just a "long shot" as Democrats will refuse to go along with any GOP members seeking to overturn Biden's victory. 

House members can challenge the results on Jan. 6, when Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to preside over the official tallying of the electoral votes. But those members would need a Republican senator to sign on to the effort.

Even if the GOP effort makes it that far, the Democratic controlled House would vote down such a maneuver.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany declined to answer whether Trump would accept today's electoral college results. She told reporters that she could not stop to take questions as it was raining at the time. She was holding an umbrella.