Pennsylvania casts 20 electoral votes for Joe Biden
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania on Monday cast its 20 electoral votes for Democrat Joe Biden, the native son whose win in the state last month cemented his victory over President Donald Trump.
The electors, primarily Democratic elected officials, also chose Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, as vice president. The 20 electors were socially distanced in a cavernous auditorium near the Capitol, meeting there instead of on the floor of the state House because of the pandemic.
Nancy Mills, president of the state’s Electoral College and state Democratic Party chairperson, noted it was Pennsylvania that put Biden, who grew up in Scranton, over the 270-vote threshold needed to claim the White House.
“We are the state that returned the dignity and honor to the United States of America,” she said.
The Electoral College meeting, normally a formality, drew extra attention this year because of the Trump campaign’s baseless claims of a rigged election and its fruitless legal machinations to try to get the results overturned.
Trump loyalists in Pennsylvania held a rival meeting in Harrisburg on Monday and cast what they described as a “conditional vote” for Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. The state Republican Party said the Trump electors met at the request of the campaign.
“We took this procedural vote to preserve any legal claims that may be presented going forward,” Bernie Comfort, Trump’s Pennsylvania chairperson, said in a statement. “This was in no way an effort to usurp or contest the will of the Pennsylvania voters.”
Courts have roundly rejected the Trump campaign’s legal claims about the election, and the Trump electors’ votes were, in practical effect, ceremonial — they had no impact on Monday’s proceedings and were to be sent to Congress without the backing of any state authority or certification.
Former GOP Rep. Lou Barletta, who cast a rival ballot for Trump, acknowledged the effort to have Biden’s election overturned was an extraordinary long shot: “Unfortunately, time is not on the side of the president.” But he added: “It’s 2020. So anything can happen, right?”
The 20 Biden electors included county, city and statewide elected officials, among them Attorney General Josh Shapiro; Scranton Mayor Paige Gebhardt Cognetti; Rep. Jordan Harris, the No. 2 Democrat in the state House; labor leaders; an elections lawyer; and a former state senator.
One by one, each elector walked up to the auditorium stage and dropped his or her ballot into a box. The electors gave the vote tally a standing ovation.
“You, today, carried out the will of the voters of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” the state’s top elections official, Kathy Boockvar, told the electors.
The Electoral College result was preordained after Biden carried Pennsylvania by more than 80,000 votes. The meeting lasted just over an hour and carried none of the drama of a presidential election whose outcome wasn’t known for days as officials sorted through millions of mailed ballots. Protesters stayed away.
Janet Diaz Temin, a medical analyst from Lancaster and a first-time elector, said ahead of the vote she was particularly looking forward to voting for Harris.
“I’m excited that it’s a good team, it’s like a very diverse team,” she said. “But as a woman and a woman of color, of course I’m excited that Kamala Harris is going to be vice president.”
The Biden electors’ ballots are to be forwarded to Congress, where they will be read into the record by Pence on Jan. 6. Biden’s inauguration is Jan. 20.
Republican members of the U.S. House have indicated they will object to slates of Biden electors from Pennsylvania and other states on Jan. 6. To force a two-hour debate on a state’s electors, any senator must also sign paperwork formally objecting.
Setting aside a state’s electoral votes requires a majority vote in both chambers — something that is also extraordinarily unlikely.
Unlike some other states, Pennsylvania has no law requiring electors to choose the winner of the popular vote. Pennsylvania, however, lets the winning candidate select the electors, and many of the Biden electors had flatly rejected any suggestion they might not vote for him.