Georgia casts its 16 electoral votes for Joe Biden

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@

With a burst of relieved applause, Georgia’s 16 Democratic electors cast their ballots for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on Monday, formally cementing the state’s electoral votes for the Democratic presidential ticket for the first time since 1992.

The oft-overlooked process is magnified this year as President Donald Trump continues to make unproven claims of widespread fraud, and rival Republicans elected their own symbolic slate in a Capitol conference room.

The Democrats, meanwhile, savored the moment of Biden’s victory in the socially-distanced Senate chamber as photographers snapped pictures from the gallery above. One of the electors, former Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams, said it was a moment that she has “dreamed about” since childhood.

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@

“We stand not for ourselves and not for our party, but for the people of Georgia,” she said, after singling out each of the other 15 electors for praise.

U.S. Rep.-elect Nikema Williams, the party chairwoman and another one of the electors, reflected on the state’s vast political changes since Democrats last won Georgia 28 years ago.

“Not only did we flip Georgia blue, and not only did we restore the soul of our nation, but we’re sending the first Black woman to the White House,” said Williams, referring to Vice President-elect Harris.

Watch: Georgia Electoral College votes

Here is a replay of the Georgia Democrats casting ballots for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris:

‘Full circle.’ Electoral College vote in Georgia is a major moment in state politics

The vote took place under security precautions, as rumors swirled that pro-Trump protesters could try to disrupt the event. The electors were ushered in through side entrances, and access to the Senate gallery was limited. But though a group of protesters gathered outside, they were kept from the Capitol, and the vote went smoothly.

The biggest surprise from the president’s allies came shortly before Democrats cast their electoral votes in the state Senate, when Georgia’s slate of GOP electors gathered behind closed doors in the second floor of the Capitol.

An aide standing outside the door falsely said a group of “educators” were meeting. Inside, a member of the GOP contingent said they were “checking legal boxes” to preserve Trump’s legal challenges if any of his long-shot lawsuits prevail. Over an hourlong ceremony, Republicans assigned their own shadow slate of electors.

After emerging from the private meeting, state GOP Chairman David Shafer said the slate of electors was assigned because the “election contest is not resolved.” He was pressed on why he contended the results were not final when the state’s legally-certified electoral ballots were cast just minutes earlier.

“There’s a lawsuit pending that President Trump filed in Fulton County Superior Court that hasn’t been decided,” he said, adding: “In order for that lawsuit to remain viable, we are required to hold this meeting.”

There’s no evidence of widespread fraud, state and federal officials say, and judges at every level have dismissed lawsuits seeking to overturn the results in Georgia and elsewhere. The state has certified and re-certified election results after three separate tallies of roughly 5 million votes.

Shafer was joined by several elected GOP officials, including state Sens. Brandon Beach and Burt Jones, who said they would only acknowledge Biden’s victory after a “legitimate investigation” into Trump’s claims.

Over the weekend, the president continued to level attacks at Gov. Brian Kemp, upset that the Republican he endorsed in 2018 has rejected his demand for a special session to undo Biden’s roughly 12,000-vote win.

Kemp told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in an interview Monday that he still wasn’t ready to concede Trump’s defeat, saying he would respect the legal process and “reevaluate when all that plays out.” He also expressed frustration that he’s being blamed for following state laws by certifying, and later re-certifying, the election results.

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@

“I’m disappointed in the results so far, in regards to the election, but also I’ve got to follow these laws and the constitution and that’s what I’m doing,” Kemp said. “It’s a little frustrating that there are some out there who don’t know where these duties fall, and I’m being blamed for a lot of things.”

AJC Interview: Kemp blasts ‘ridiculous’ attacks over refusal to overturn election

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan has warned that Trump’s refusal to concede could deal long-term damage to the GOP, while other state Republicans worry the mixed messages – encouraging supporters to trust an election system the president says is “rigged” – will dampen turnout in the Jan. 5 runoffs for U.S. Senate control.

Georgia Republican U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue both backed a Texas lawsuit thrown out by the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday and called for Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to resign, moves their allies hope will ward off blowback from the president and his loyalists that could damage their chances against Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.

At a campaign stop in Atlanta, the two Democratic contenders embraced the moment. Nodding to the Electoral College results, Warnock said the “four most powerful words in a democracy are: ‘The people have spoken.’”

“Politicians are playing games, as if this is their democracy,” said Warnock. “They’re going to find out come Jan. 5 that this is the people’s democracy.”

Faith shaken in system, some Georgia Trump supporters consider skipping vote

The Electoral College votes, one of the final steps in the process of finalizing Biden’s victory, could intensify the pressure on Republicans to acknowledge Trump’s defeat. Next, the votes must be counted and authorized by Congress on Jan. 6. Biden will be inaugurated on Jan. 20.

Georgia’s 16 electors were a group that includes local activists, rising Democratic stars, long-serving lawmakers and newly-elected officials. Each elector cast two separate paper ballots – one for the presidency and one for the vice presidency. Some noted the history of the moment, voices trembling with emotion, while others simply announced their votes.

“We know this result was not luck,” said Williams. “It was thanks to the hard work of organizers, volunteers and voters across Georgia.”

Meet Georgia’s 16 Democratic electors

State Rep. Calvin Smyre, the dean of the Legislature, is the veteran of the bunch. He was the only one of the 16 electors to have also cast a ballot the last time a Democrat won Georgia, in 1992, when Bill Clinton carried the state.

His reaction to the moment was simple: “Absolutely outstanding and historic.”

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@

About the Author