Electoral college confirms Joe Biden's victory in 2020 presidential election, with 306 to 232 final count

The electoral college has formally validated Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

Minutes after Biden victory confirmed, Trump tweeted AG Barr is leaving his position

U.S. president-elect Joe Biden said it is time for the nation to heal after the U.S. electoral college formally confirmed his victory over President Donald Trump in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, December 14, 2020. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

U.S. president-elect Joe Biden says his electoral college victory of the same magnitude as President Donald Trump's in 2016 is a signal that the current president should finally accept his own defeat in this year's election.

Biden noted during a speech Monday in Wilmington, Del., that Trump called his 2016 tally of 306 electoral votes a "landslide."

Biden says if that constituted a clear victory then, he wanted to "respectfully suggest" that Trump now accept Biden's victory this year.

"The flame of democracy was lit in this nation a long time ago," he said in his speech to mark his electoral college victory. "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."

Biden cleared the 270 electoral vote threshold on Monday after California's electors cast their votes for the Democrat. With Hawaii adding its final votes just after 7 p.m. ET, the count was over.

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The electoral college vote is normally a procedural step in the presidential election, but its importance has been heightened this year because U.S. President Donald Trump is refusing to concede his loss. He and his allies have filed roughly 50 lawsuits, and most have been dropped or dismissed by judges, including twice by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Minutes after Biden's win was confirmed, Trump announced the resignation of one of his most loyal allies, U.S. Attorney General William Barr. Trump publicly denounced Barr earlier this month after he said the Justice Department had found no widespread election fraud that would change the outcome of the election.

Trump has also been angry that the Justice Department did not publicly announce it was investigating Biden's son, Hunter Biden, ahead of the election, despite department policy against such a pronouncement.

Results to be finalized Jan. 6

Heightened security was in place in some states as electors in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — the six battleground states that Biden won and Donald Trump contested — gave Biden and vice-president-elect Kamala Harris their votes Monday in low-key proceedings.

Monday was the day set by law for the meeting of the electoral college. Electors cast paper ballots in gatherings that were taking place in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, with masks, physical distancing and other coronavirus precautions the order of the day.

The results will be sent to Washington, and tallied in a Jan. 6 joint session of Congress over which Vice-President Mike Pence will preside.

"Once again in America, the rule of law, our Constitution, and the will of the people have prevailed. Our democracy — pushed, tested, threatened — proved to be resilient, true, and strong," Biden said in his Monday evening speech in which he stressed the size of his win and the record 81 million people who voted for him.

He renewed his campaign promise to be a president for all Americans, whether they voted for him or not, and said the country has hard work ahead on the virus and economy.

But there was no concession from the White House, where Trump has continued to make unsupported allegations of fraud.

WATCH | Biden says it's time for the country to heal:

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Wisconsin cast its 10 electoral college votes for Biden, just about an hour after the Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit from Trump seeking to overturn the election results.

Nevada held its ceremony over Zoom due to the coronavirus outbreak.

There have been concerns about safety for the electors, virtually unheard of in previous years.

Threats of violence in Michigan

Legislative offices were closed Monday in Michigan over threats of violence. The 16 electors met in the Senate chamber in a ceremony headed by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, and by mid-afternoon, they cast their votes for Biden, who reclaimed the battleground state for Democrats on his way to winning the White House.

Biden won the state by 154,000 votes, or 2.8 percentage points, over Trump.

Amber McCann, spokesperson for Mike Shirkey, the Republican senate majority leader in Michigan, said the closures were made on recommendations from law enforcement.

"The decision was not made because of anticipated protests, but was made based on credible threats of violence," she said.

Whitmer was targeted in an alleged kidnapping plot that led to arrests in October.

Meanwhile, a Republican lawmaker was disciplined on Monday for not denouncing potential violence in Michigan.

State Rep. Gary Eisen of St. Clair Township told WPHM-AM that he planned to help with an unspecified "Hail Mary" Republican plan to challenge the election, conceding the "uncharted" action likely would not change the result.

Asked if he could guarantee people's safety, Eisen said, "No."

House Speaker Lee Chatfield and Speaker-elect Jason Wentworth, both Republicans, removed Eisen from committee assignments. In a statement, they said threats or suggestions of violence in politics are never acceptable, including "when the public officials open the door to violent behaviour and refuse to condemn it. We must do better."

Trump has clung to his false claims that he won the election and undermining Biden's presidency even before it begins.

"No, I worry about the country having an illegitimate president, that's what I worry about. A president that lost and lost badly," Trump said in a Fox News interview that was taped Saturday.

Following weeks of Republican legal challenges that were easily dismissed by judges, Trump and Republican allies tried to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court last week to set aside 62 electoral votes for Biden in four states, which might have thrown the outcome into doubt.

The justices rejected the effort on Friday.

'Procedural vote' 

Even with the electoral college's confirmation of Biden's victory, some Republicans continue to refuse to acknowledge that reality.

Yet their opposition to Biden had no practical effect on the electoral process, with the Democrat to be sworn in on Jan. 20.

Despite Biden's wins in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Republicans who would have been Trump electors met anyway.

Pennsylvania Republicans said they cast a "procedural vote" for Trump and Pence in case courts that have repeatedly rejected challenges to Biden's victory were to somehow still determine that Trump had won.

But one retiring Republican from Michigan said he is disaffiliating from the Republican Party and becoming an independent for the rest of his term. 

In a letter to Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel and House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, Rep. Paul Mitchell wrote, "It is unacceptable for political candidates to treat our election system as though we are a third-world nation and incite distrust of something so basic as the sanctity of our vote."

He also said it was unacceptable for Trump to have attacked the Supreme Court for rejecting his team's lawsuit and for party leaders and the House Republican Conference to participate in Trump's efforts to get the election results overturned based on conspiracy theories.

A protester holds a banner as Michigan electors gathered Monday to cast their votes for the U.S. presidential election at the state capitol in Lansing, Mich. (Emily Elconin/Reuters)

More Republicans publicly accepted Biden's victory for the first time by the end of the day Monday. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said "yeah" on Monday when reporters asked if Biden was now president-elect. And Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt flatly said, "Vice-President Biden is the president-elect."

Blunt is a member of the Senate Republican leadership. Graham is a close friend and strong supporter of Trump.

In North Carolina, Utah and other states across the country where Trump won, his electors turned out to duly cast their ballots for him. 

Former president Bill Clinton and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, whom Trump defeated four years ago, were among New York's 29 electors for Biden and Harris.

Voters can't go rogue, Supreme Court says

In 2016, Trump won the electoral college despite losing the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton by nearly three million votes.

The formal vote earned extra attention when some Democratic activists called for electors to "go rogue" against Trump. In the end, seven electors broke ranks — choosing people like Colin Powell and Bernie Sanders — an unusually high number but still far too few to sway the outcome.

In 32 states and the District of Columbia, laws require electors to vote for the popular-vote winner. The Supreme Court unanimously upheld this arrangement in July.

Electors almost always vote for the state winner anyway because they generally are devoted to their political party. There's no reason to expect any defections this year. Among prominent electors are Democrat Stacey Abrams of Georgia and Republican Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota.

The voting is decidedly low tech, by paper ballot. Electors cast one vote each for president and vice-president.

The electoral college was the product of compromise during the drafting of the Constitution between those who favoured electing the president by popular vote and those who opposed giving the people the power to choose their leader.

Former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, who was influential in mobilizing Democrats to vote in Georgia, walks onto the Senate floor at the state capitol in Atlanta as the state began its process of casting electoral college votes. (John Bazemore/The Associated Press)

Each state gets a number of electors equal to their total number of seats in Congress: two senators plus however many members the state has in the House of Representatives. Washington, D.C., has three votes, under a constitutional amendment that was ratified in 1961.

With the exception of Maine and Nebraska, states award all their electoral college votes to the winner of the popular vote in their state.

The bargain struck by the nation's founders has produced five elections in which the president did not win the popular vote. Trump was the most recent example in 2016.

Mo Brooks, a conservative Republican congressman, has vowed to file challenges when Congress reviews the vote on Jan. 6, 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.

With files from CBC News and Reuters