News US Electoral College confirms Joe Biden as 46th president
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US Electoral College confirms Joe Biden as 46th president

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Joe Biden has been confirmed as next US president after California’s electors voted to give him the state’s 55 electoral college votes, pushing him over the 270 threshold needed to win the presidency.

The college voted in state capitols across the country on Monday (local time) to install Mr Biden even as President Donald Trump continued to contest the November election result.

Mr Biden is set to garner 306 college votes while Mr Trump will get 232. All US states have certified their results from the November 3 vote.

The electoral college system distributes 538 votes to states based on population size. The winner of the presidential election is the candidate to get more than 270 electoral votes.

While most states have laws binding electors to the popular vote outcome in their territories, some do not, potentially creating room for drama if officials decide to go rogue.

In modern history this has not been an issue.

In the morning votes on the east coast and in the south there were no unexpected events. Even in Georgia, the scene of a hotly contested election battle, all 16 votes went to Mr Biden.

Earlier on Tuesday (AEDT), members of the Electoral College in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Wisconsin and Arizona – battleground states won by Mr Biden but repeatedly challenged in failed legal bids by Mr Trump – all cast their votes for the former vice-president.

Despite Tuesday’s decisive vote, Mr Trump continues to push the false narrative that the election was rigged against him. His legal team has lost dozens of cases in the courts and one case brought by his allies was rejected by the Supreme Court.

The next formal step in the US election process will be in Congress on January 6, with certification of the Electoral College vote.

Mr Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris are due to be sworn in on January 20.

Mr Trump is yet to offer to meet Mr Biden, although his administration has recently begun to work with the President-elect’s transition team.

Biden addresses US in passionate speech

The Electoral College votes, traditionally a formality, have assumed outsized significance because of Mr Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud in November’s poll.

Results for weeks have shown Mr Biden won 306 Electoral College votes – exceeding the 270 needed to win – after four tumultuous years under the Republican Mr Trump.

Mr Biden, 78, began a national address shortly before midday (AEDT), calling on Americans to turn the page.

“If anyone didn’t know before, they know now – what beats deep in the hearts of the American people is this – democracy. The right to be heard. To have your vote counted. To choose leaders of this
nation, to govern ourselves.

“In America, politicians don’t take power. People grant power to them.

“The flame of democracy was lit in this nation a long time ago. And we now know nothing – not even a pandemic – or an abuse of power can extinguish that flame,” he said.

“We need to work together to give each other a chance, to lower the temperature, and most of all, we need to stand in solidarity as fellow Americans.

“To see each other, our pain, our struggles, our hopes and our dreams. We’re a great nation. We’re good people. We may come from different place, whole different beliefs, but we share in common a love for this country – a belief in its limitless possibilities, for we, the United States, as always set the example for the world, for the peaceful transition of power.

“We will do so again,” he told Americans.

Once in office, Mr Biden faces the challenging task of fighting the coronavirus pandemic, reviving the US economy and rebuilding relations frayed with US allies abroad by Mr Trump’s “America First” policies.

Meanwhile, Mr Trump has also not publicly reacted. He did use his preferred form of communication – Twitter – to confirm the abrupt resignation of Attorney-General William Barr on Tuesday.

Electoral College system an honoured tradition

In Arizona, at the beginning of the electors’ meeting there, the state’s Democratic secretary of state, Katie Hobbs, said Mr Trump’s claims of fraud had “led to threats of violence against me, my office, and those in this room today”, echoing similar reports in other states.

“While there will be those who are upset their candidate didn’t win, it is patently un-American and unacceptable that today’s event should be anything less than an honoured tradition held with pride and in celebration.”

Under a complicated system dating back to the 1780s, a candidate becomes US president not by winning the popular vote but through the Electoral College system, which allots electoral votes to the 50 states and the District of Columbia largely based on the size of their population.

Electors are party loyalists who represent the winning candidate in their state, with the exception of Maine and Nebraska, which allocate some of their votes based on which candidate won congressional districts.

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 the results.

-with agencies