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Congress officially certifies Biden as president-elect

Vice President Mike Pence. (YouTube screenshot)

A joint session of Congress headed by Vice President Mike Pence convened Wednesday to tally the 2020 Electoral College votes and debated late into the night, until concluding with Joe Biden’s certification as president-elect early Thursday morning.

Pence banged the gavel at 3:44 a.m. EST to conclude the session with 306 electoral votes for Biden and Kamala Harris, and 232 votes for President Donald Trump and Pence. The certification took place hours after demonstrators disrupted the planned session and overtook the Capitol with violence.

After debates in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, lawmakers in both chambers voted against sustaining challenges to certify the electoral votes for Arizona. Pence opened the sealed envelopes from each state, reading the results aloud, and giving an opportunity for any official objections to be heard.

Last-minute objections were raised by freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green to Michigan’s votes, and Rep. Louie Gohmert to Wisconsin’s votes, but Pence struck both objections down because the written objections did not contain a senator’s signature to accompany a representative’s signature as required by law.

A doubly signed objection against Pennsylvania’s votes was waged just after midnight, prompting a brief recess period, followed by additional debate. Ultimately, Pence rejected the objection.

“Because the two houses have not sustained the objection, the original certificates submitted by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will be counted as provided therein,” Pence said.

Demonstrators protesting the election took place Wednesday, with thousands crowded outside the Capitol building. They eventually stormed inside, setting off violent clashes that forced Pence to evacuate and the building to lock down. One woman was shot and later died, three other protesters reportedly died from unknown causes, and 52 protesters were arrested, according to CNN.

Ahead of the vote certification, over 100 members of the House of Representatives and 12 senators had announced plans to challenge the certification process. Over the weekend, Sen. Ted Cruz led the senatorial effort, releasing a joint statement vowing to challenge the results and call for an electoral commission to examine claims of election fraud.

In the statement, the lawmakers announced their plan to reject the results, citing unprecedented allegations of voter fraud, violations, and lax enforcement of election law and other irregularities that have caused a “deep distrust of our democratic processes” that will not “magically disappear” and “should concern us all.”

“Congress should immediately appoint an Electoral Commission, with full investigatory and fact-finding authority, to conduct an emergency 10-day audit of the election returns in the disputed states. Once completed, individual states would evaluate the Commission’s findings and could convene a special legislative session to certify a change in their vote, if needed,” the statement read.

Biden’s certification as president-elect comes after Georgia’s Senate runoff election appeared to give sweeping power to the Democrats following Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s defeat to Raphael Warnock.

During the Wednesday proceding, Loeffler, who had previously planned to object to the certifying the votes, said she would no longer raise her objections.

“I believe there were last minute changes to the November election process and serious irregularities that resulted in too many Americans losing confidence, not only in the integrity of our elections but in the power of the ballot as a tool of Democracy,” Loeffler said.

“Too many Americans are frustrated at what they see as an unfair system, nevertheless, there is no excuse for the events that took place in these chambers today and I pray that America never suffers such a dark day again. Though the fate of this vote is clear, the future of the American people’s faith in the core institution of this democracy remains uncertain,” she added.