By Beau Evans
Capitol Beat News Service
Georgia’s members to the Electoral College have cast their 16 votes for a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time in nearly 30 years.
President-elect Joe Biden was formally declared winner of Georgia’s general election during a ceremony Tuesday at the state Capitol attended by many of the state’s most prominent Democratic leaders.
The electors, who were twice certified by Gov. Brian Kemp following two recounts, also handed their 16 votes to Biden’s running mate, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
Biden defeated President Donald Trump last month in Georgia by 12,779 votes, marking the first Democratic presidential victor in the state since former President Bill Clinton won in 1992.
Biden’s win in Georgia came after gains for Democrats in the state’s suburban areas in recent elections, particularly in longstanding Republican strongholds like Cobb and Gwinnett counties.
Democratic voters also took advantage of record-breaking mail-in voting amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 1.3 million Georgians casting absentee ballots in the Nov. 3 election.
Much of the momentum has been credited to former Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, who led efforts to register new voters and energize Democratic turnout in the two years after losing to Kemp by a narrow margin in the 2018 gubernatorial election.
“This is a moment for me that I have dreamed about,” said Abrams, who served as the presiding officer for Monday’s Electoral College meeting.
“We stand not for ourselves or for our party, but for the people of Georgia. It is on their behalf that we took up this charge to be electors. It is on their behalf that we are ensuring that the nation is led by a good man who believes in the soul of the nation and all its people.”
Also playing key roles in the meeting were U.S. Rep.-elect Nikema Williams, who last month won the seat held by the late Congressman John Lewis, and state Rep. Calvin Smyre, the longest-serving member of the Georgia House of Representatives.
“We’ve come a long, long way in Georgia, and we’ve got a lot to be proud of,” said Smyre, a Democrat who also voted for former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton as an Electoral College member.
The Electoral College vote came on the first day of the three-week early voting period ahead of Georgia’s high-stakes U.S. runoff elections on Jan. 5.
Democrats will gain control of the White House and Congress if challengers Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff both beat Republican incumbent U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue.
Warnock, the senior pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, called Monday a “defining moment in American history” as he cast his ballot at an early-voting precinct in Atlanta.
“Georgia is at the center of it,” Warnock said. “Let’s show up the way Georgia does.”
Amid Monday’s festivities for Georgia Democrats, Trump has still refused to concede defeat as he continues lobbing claims of ballot-casting and voting machine fraud.
Courts in Georgia and across the country have shot down lawsuits filed by Trump’s allies and his campaign due to procedural issues and lack of evidence, though some suits are still pending.
Most recently, the U.S. Supreme Court last Friday refused to take up a Texas case challenging Georgia’s election results that many local Republican lawmakers supported.
Republican Party electors met at the Capitol Monday to cast their votes for Trump even though Kemp certified Democrats’ slate of electors. Georgia law requires the governor to certify Electoral College members from only the party that won the state’s popular vote.
Georgia Republican Party Chairman David Shafer said Republicans picked their own Electoral College members because “[Trump’s] lawsuit contesting the Georgia election is still pending.”
With Trump pressing to overturn the election’s outcome, Georgia Republicans are framing Senate runoff wins for Warnock and Ossoff as a doomsday scenario for conservatives as they seek to turn out voters for Loeffler and Perdue.
“We need you to make a plan, find your polling place and get out and vote,” said Loeffler, an Atlanta businesswoman. “Save the American Dream.”