US Electoral College hands Joe Biden victory in presidential election

As per certified results from states, Joe Biden is on track to win 306 Electoral College votes. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON - United States President-elect Joe Biden has won the Electoral College as expected, with 302 votes to incumbent President Donald Trump's 232.

Electors met across the country in solemn sessions, some including multi-faith prayers, to cast their votes for the president and vice-president - all on live television.

By 5.30pm on Monday, US Eastern time (6.30am on Tuesday, Singapore time) California's votes came in and it was effectively over: Mr Biden had crossed the 270 mark, which is the majority in the Electoral College required to win the presidency.

As per certified results from states, he is on track to win 306 Electoral College votes, with President Trump not exceeding 232.

The result - never in doubt though Mr Trump maintains the election was "stolen" - closes off almost every legal avenue for the incumbent to overturn the election.

The next step in the process is for Congress, in a joint session on Jan 6, to officially count the votes and certify Mr Biden, 78, President-elect.

Senator Kamala Harris, 56, will be Vice-President - the first woman and first person of colour to hold the second highest office.

The joint session of Congress is usually a formality. This time, some Trump allies, led by Alabama Republican Congressman Mo Brooks, are mulling a challenge, but analysts say it is a long shot and still will not change the outcome.

Mr Biden addressed the nation hours later, saying: "In America, politicians don't take power - the people grant it to them.

"The flame of democracy was lit in this nation a long time ago. And we now know that nothing - not even a pandemic -or an abuse of power - can extinguish that flame.

"In this battle for the soul of America, democracy prevailed. We the people voted. Faith in our institutions held. The integrity of our elections remains intact.

"And so, now it is time to turn the page. To unite. To heal. As I said through this campaign, I will be a President for all Americans. I will work just as hard for those of you who didn't vote for me, as I will for those who did."

More votes were cast in the 2020 presidential election than in any other in US history, with Mr Biden winning 81.2 million to Mr Trump's 74.2 million.

Stakes high in Georgia

This will not end political tension, as Georgia becomes the scene of another critical contest - a run-off election for two Senate seats which will make the difference between Republican and Democrat control of the Senate.

Both Mr Trump and Mr Biden are scheduled to campaign in Georgia in the coming days. The run-off is scheduled for Jan 5.

The stakes are high; Republican control will be a brake on Mr Biden's legislative agenda. President Trump has framed the contest in extreme rhetoric, saying Democrat control means the country will be plunged into ruinous socialism.

Also, going ahead, the greater political rift will remain. As at the weekend, 82 per cent of Trump supporters polled by CBS News did not see Mr Biden as the legitimate victor. A Fox News poll found that 77 per cent believe the election was stolen from Mr Trump.

Tension rising

Following a pro-Trump rally in the capital last Saturday, street battles between right-wing white supremacists, and leftists and Black Lives Matter activists left four with stab wounds.

Violence also occurred at protests outside the Washington state capitol in Olympia.

Meanwhile in Atlanta, Georgia, heavily armed white militants marched to the state Capitol in a show of force, and were briefly confronted as well by black-clad and also armed "Antifa" - an anti-fascist network - under the watchful eyes of the police.

Ahead of Monday's meeting of electors at the state Capitol in Lansing, Michigan, officials closed all state government buildings due to "credible threats of violence."

At the pro-Trump rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC last Saturday, speakers laid out what they called evidence - none of which has so far stood up in any court - of massive electoral fraud.

And there was a strong religious element. Minnesota bed linen entrepreneur Mike Lindell, vocal Trump supporter, told the crowd "Donald Trump was picked by God".

Mr Trump has continued to insist that Mr Biden will be an "illegitimate President."

On Sunday he Tweeted: "Most corrupt election in US history!"

As has become almost customary, Twitter flagged that tweet with a label saying "This claim about election fraud is disputed."

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