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N.Y., Conn.’s Electoral College Meets In-Person To Elect Biden, Harris

Vote Stickers
Matt Rourke

The Electoral College meets in all 50 states on Monday. In New York and Connecticut, officials have decided, reluctantly, to hold the event in person, despite the rising rate of the coronavirus.

Connecticut’s presidential electors convened in the Senate Chamber of the state Capitol in Hartford to cast official ballots for president and vice president. Secretary of the State Denise Merrill oversaw the proceedings.

There are seven all-Democratic electors from Connecticut: Susan Barrett, John Kalamarides, Dana Barcellos-Allen, William Smith, Myrna Watanabe, Anthony Attanasio and Nick Balletto, who is a former Democratic Party chairman. They elected a chairman, vice-chairman and secretary of the electors, and voted for Joe Biden as the next president of the United States and Kamala Harris as Vice President on paper ballots.

Electoral votes are allocated among states based on the U.S.Census. Every state has the number of votes equal to the number of senators and representatives in its U.S. Congressional delegation.

As usual, the ceremony was held in the ornate Senate Chamber at the state Capitol. But this year, there was mask wearing and social distancing because of the pandemic.

“The Electoral College has met in-person since 1789, which was the very first ever presidential election in this country, and this probably is the most unusual meeting in all that time,” Merrill said.

However, she said the process is the culmination of an election that was safe, secure and accurate.

Credit Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo
Former President Bill Clinton and former First Lady, U.S. Secretary of State, and U.S. Senator from New York, Hillary Clinton were among the presidential electors who met Monday at the state Capitol in Albany.

Former President Bill Clinton and former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were among members of New York’s Electoral College who met in person at the State Capitol to cast the unanimous vote for Biden and Harris.

The 29 electors and a few key staff met in the Assembly Chamber, the largest gathering space in the building, with a capacity to hold over 1,000 people. Plexiglas barriers separated Governor Andrew Cuomo, who led the proceedings, from other electors including  the Clintons,  Attorney General Tish James and Comptroller Tom DiNapoli. The legislative leaders, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, formally announced the unanimous votes for Biden and Harris.

Cuomo previously said that the electors needed to meet in person, and not remotely, to prevent President Donald Trump, the losing candidate, from taking court action to try to invalidate New York’s election results. The President has already filed numerous unsuccessful lawsuits over the November election results. The governor commented on the strangeness of the shortened proceedings.

“This pandemic, these masks, this physical configuration are a stark reminder to the nation that government matters and leadership matters,” Cuomo said. “And good government can not only improve people’s lives but literally can save people’s lives.”

Credit Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo presides over the Electoral College vote in the Assembly Chamber at the State Capitol.

Not among the electors, New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio, who briefly ran in the Democratic Presidential primary against Biden before dropping out of the race.

The governor’s Chief of Staff, Melissa DeRosa, said they moved quickly to limit the event to half an hour or less.

“We are going to test everybody before they get into the room,” DeRosa said. “People are going to be more than socially distanced.”

The signed and certified copies of the states’ electoral college vote are now on their way to Congress.

By the end of the meetings in all of the states, Biden is expected to have 306 electoral votes. That’s more than the 270 needed to be elected president. President Trump will have 232.

As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year.
Karen has covered state government and politics for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 New York and Connecticut stations, since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers.