Electors will gather in state capitols across the country on Monday to formally vote for Joe Biden as the next U.S. president.
In the United States, a candidate becomes president not by winning a majority of the national popular vote but through an Electoral College system, which allots electoral votes to the 50 states and the District of Columbia largely based on their population.
Election results show Biden, the Democratic former vice president, won 306 of the 538 electoral votes available – exceeding the necessary 270. President Donald Trump, a Republican, earned 232.
In capitols such as Lansing, Michigan; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; and Atlanta, Georgia, electors – typically party loyalists – will gather to formally cast those votes.
While there are sometimes a handful of “rogue” electors who vote for someone other than the winner of their state’s popular vote, the vast majority rubber-stamp their state’s results, and officials do not expect anything different on Monday.
The votes cast on Monday will be sent to Congress to be officially counted on Jan. 6, the final stage of America’s complex election process.
Trump said last month he will leave the White House if the Electoral College votes for Biden, but has since pressed on with his campaign to overturn his defeat.
Once the Electoral College vote is complete, Trump’s sole remaining gambit would be to convince Congress not to certify the count on Jan. 6. Federal law allows individual lawmakers to challenge states’ electoral votes, which prompts both the House of Representatives and the Senate to debate the objections before voting on whether to sustain them.
Mo Brooks, a conservative Republican congressman, has vowed to file challenges when Congress reviews the vote next month, though it is all but certain both chambers would reject his effort. Democrats control the House, while several moderate Republicans in the Senate have already publicly accepted Biden’s victory.
While the electoral votes normally involve some pomp and circumstance, most events this year will be significantly scaled back due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In Michigan, for instance, the 16 electors are allowed to bring only a single guest; Arizona has shifted its ceremony from the capitol building to an unassuming government facility and pared down the list of invitees. At least one state, Nevada, intends to hold its electoral vote entirely virtually.
The process of choosing electors varies by state. In some, state parties pick electors at local or state conventions, while in others, the party leadership chooses the slate. In Pennsylvania, the presidential candidates themselves pick their electors, while in California, Democratic congressional nominees select them.