California confirmed its presidential election Friday, nominating 55 voters who had pledged to vote for Democrat Joe Biden, and officially gave him the majority of the electoral college necessary to win the White House.
Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s formal approval of Biden’s victory in the state brought his number of committed voters to 279, according to a report by The Associated Press, a little over the 270 threshold for victory.
These voting steps are often ignored. But the hidden mechanisms behind the election of a U.S. president have seen a new test this year as President Donald Trump continues to deny Biden’s victory and uses increasingly flimsy legal strategies to discard the results before finalizing them.
Although it has been apparent for weeks that Biden won the presidential election, his rallying of more than 270 voters is the first step toward the White House, said Edward B. Foley, a law professor at Ohio State University.
“It is a legal milestone and the first to have this status,” said Foley. “Everything before that was based on so-called projections.”
Poll workers count the ballots on November 5th in Downey, California. (Lucy Nicholson / Reuters)
The voters named on Friday will meet with colleagues in each state on December 14th to officially vote for the next president. Most states have laws that bind their voters to the winner of the referendum in their state. These measures were upheld by a Supreme Court decision earlier this year. There were no suggestions that any of Biden’s promised voters would consider not voting for him.
The results of the voting in the electoral college are expected to reach Congress on January 6th and are usually approved by Congress. Although lawmakers may object to the acceptance of voters’ votes, it would be nearly impossible for Biden to get blocked at this point.
The Democratic-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate would both vote separately to resolve any disputes. One has already come from Pennsylvania, where 75 Republican lawmakers signed a statement Friday calling on Congress to block the state’s voting for Biden. However, US Republican state senator Pat Toomey soon said he would not object to Pennsylvania’s electoral roll, underscoring the difficulty of Congress changing election results.
“As a practical matter, we know Joe Biden will be inaugurated on January 20th,” said Foley.
A Biden supporter holds up a cell phone displaying the Electoral College map on November 7 in Philadelphia. (John Minchillo / The Associated Press)
That was clear in the days after the election, when the number of postal ballots began to show that Biden had won enough states to win the electoral college. It became even clearer at the end of November when each swing state won by Biden certified him as the election winner and appointed his voters to the electoral college. Trump has tried unsuccessfully to prevent these states from certifying Biden as the winner and nominating voters for the former vice president.
He made no effort in deeply democratic California, the nation’s most populous state and the treasure trove of most of his electoral votes. Three other states won by Biden – Colorado, Hawaii, and New Jersey – have not yet confirmed their results. If they do, Biden will have 306 electoral college votes on Trump’s 232.
Trump and his allies have filed at least 50 legal cases attempting to reverse the results in the swing states that Biden won – mostly Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. According to an AP tally, more than 30 have been rejected or dropped.
US President Donald Trump is seen in the Oval Office of the White House on Thursday. (Evan Vucci / The Associated Press)
Trump and his allies have also voiced the far-fetched notion that Republican lawmakers in these states could appoint a rival group of voters who voted for Trump.
But the Republican heads of state have rejected this approach, and it would definitely be pointless. Under federal law, both chambers of Congress would have to vote to accept a competing electoral roll. If not, the voters appointed by the state governors, who in these cases have all bids, must be used.
The last remaining step to block the election would be the quixotic effort to get voters to vote in Congress.
This tactic has been tried – a handful of Congressional Democrats in 2000, 2004, and 2016 objected to the official designation of George W. Bush and Trump as president. But the numbers weren’t enough to prevent the two men from taking office.