WASHINGTON — “I am so relieved to be casting my vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris” for president and vice president, suburban Barrington Democrat Nancy Shepherdson — one of 20 Electoral College members from Illinois — said Monday, as she helped Biden cement the win Donald Trump won’t and may never acknowledge.
And with that, a masked Shepherdson, in the Illinois House Chamber at the state Capitol in Springfield where the electors met, dropped her electoral vote into a wood box at a session presided over by Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
When it was her turn, ex-state Rep. Lauren Beth Gash, the Lake County Democratic chair said, “I’m honored to cast my Electoral College vote to confirm a team that will work to repair our image and lead us into a brighter future — inclusive, diverse, innovative and compassionate.”
The 538-member Electoral College made it official — President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris received 306 votes, the same number President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence got in 2016 when Trump called his win a landslide. Trump, with 232 electoral votes, fell short of the 270 needed.
The 20 Illinois electors — all Democratic state party faithfuls, cast votes for Biden and Harris. The 20 is derived from the size of the Illinois congressional delegation: 18 House members and two senators.
On Jan. 6, those electoral ballots will be counted at a joint session of Congress.
On Monday night, Biden, after clinching the Electoral College votes, addressed the nation to underscore that “democracy prevailed” even as Trump and his allies continue to refuse reality and promote baseless claims.
Perhaps Shepherdson’s sense of relief is premature.
Trump is intent, as the rants on his Twitter feed show, on doing everything possible to delegitimize and undermine Biden’s presidency.
Few Republicans are willing to step up and stop this assault on democracy. The damage caused by Trump’s refusal to accept defeat is magnified because he’s been able to convince his millions of followers Biden cheated to win the election.
In all of Illinois, there is only one Republican, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who has the guts to strongly counter the GOP resistance. “We won’t be destroyed, we will #RestoreOurGOP,” he said in a tweet.
The quadrennial sessions of the Electoral College — usually ceremonial events, reminding us that U.S. presidents are actually elected indirectly — jumped into the news as Trump sought and failed to invalidate votes in key swing states or replace Biden electors with his own.
In Illinois, the 20 electors met in the Illinois House chamber COVID-19 tested, masked and seated socially distanced apart. That the electors are all Democrats reflected Biden winning the Illinois popular vote, 57.5% to 40.6% for Trump.
Secretary of State Jesse White, whose office oversees the Electoral College balloting and related paperwork, opened the session. After that, Lightfoot took the gavel. She was chosen by the other electors to chair the proceeding.
White has been secretary of state for so long that this was his sixth Electoral College proceeding. This was also his last, since he will not be running for another term in 2022.
There was a sense of history and solemnity in the chamber that came through in the live-stream and not only the relief that some normalcy will be restored under a President Biden.
Harris becomes the first female vice president and the first person of color to occupy that office.
When elector Vera Davis — the wife of Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., a Democratic Party of Illinois state central committeeman and a West Side NAACP leader — cast her ballot, she said she was “proud” to vote for her Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority “sister.”
Said Lightfoot, wrapping up the historic session, “The election is affirmed and it is now time for us as a country to move forward, transition in full and embrace the promise of a new administration” led by Biden and Harris. “Their success is our success. And we need desperately to unite as a people. Our democracy and our residents deserve no less.”
Each elector signed six certificates. According to White’s office, the U.S. Senate is sent two copies; one to the National Archives; one to the chief federal judge of the Central District of Illinois and two copies to the Illinois State Archives.