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 the floor of the state House because of the pandemic.
One by one, each elector walked up to the auditorium stage and dropped his or her ballot into a box designed by Benjamin Franklin. The electors gave the vote tally a standing ovation.
Nancy Mills, president of the state’s Electoral College and state Democratic Party chairperson, noted it was Pennsylvania that put Biden 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 said they 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 to be sent to Congress without the backing of any state authority or certification.
The 20 Biden electors include county, city and statewide elected officials, among them Attorney General Josh Shapiro and Scranton Mayor Paige Gebhardt Cognetti.
The state House Democratic whip, Jordan Harris, was an elector, along with labor leaders, an elections lawyer, and former state Sen. Connie Williams.
Janet Diaz Temin, a medical analyst from Lancaster and an elector for the first time, 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 electors’ ballots are to be forwarded to Congress, where they will be read into the record by Vice President Mike 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.
Unlike some other states, Pennsylvania has no law requiring electors to vote for the winner of the popular vote. Pennsylvania, however, lets the winning candidate select the electors, and in recent weeks many of the Biden electors have flatly rejected any suggestion they might not vote for him.
(Copyright 2020 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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