Joining states across the country in cementing the results of the 2020 election, Washington’s presidential electors Monday awarded 12 Electoral College votes to Joe Biden for president and Kamala Harris for vice president.
The ceremony, normally a little-watched formality, drew extra attention this year because of President Donald Trump’s refusal to accept his loss — fomenting protests and threats by supporters against election workers and electors in some states.
Wearing masks and physically distancing in the state Senate chambers in Olympia, the dozen Democratic electors cast their ballots for the Biden-Harris ticket, abiding by the popular vote as required by state law.
Unlike four years ago, there were no dramatic rebellions by rogue electors in Washington. But there were outpourings of emotion as electors and elected officials alike spoke about the rancorous political environment.
Jack Arends, an elector from Everett, said he is dying of a terminal medical condition, and sobbed as he said he’d proudly voted for Biden and Harris as perhaps his last act of civic involvement.
“Today was the chance to begin the end of the Trump administration,” said Arends. “I was glad to do my duty and rid our nation of a petty dictator! Had he won a second term, there is no limit to the damage he could have done to the world.”
Sophia Danenberg, an elector from Seattle, said she was “so, so proud to vote for my fellow ‘Blasian'” — referring to someone with Black and Asian-American parents. She said Harris “will be making history as the first woman, the first African American and the first Asian vice-president of the United States.”
In a heated speech at the event, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee lashed out at Trump and his allies for spreading false claims of fraud to sow doubts about the results.
“There is no shame in losing an election, but there is shame in being sore losers,” said Inslee, calling the actions by Trump and his allies “an unprecedented attack on the very foundations of democracy in our nation.”
Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a Republican, choked up while speaking at the start of the noon ceremony. She expressed pride in the near-record voter turnout and relief at the end of “one of the most contentious elections” she could recall.
“As you can see, this is getting to me,” said Wyman, calling the election “fair and accurate” despite attempts to discredit it.
Wyman’s office on Monday reported a personal threat against one of her top aides by a website that has targeted elections officials of both parties as “enemies of the people.”
Lori Augino, the state’s elections director, was targeted over the weekend by the site, which posted her home address and a photo of her with cross hairs superimposed on it.
The threat has been reported to authorities, including the Department of Homeland Security, a Wyman spokeswoman said.
Claiming false allegations of massive vote fraud, Trump and his allies have filed dozens of legal actions trying to overturn the choice of voters in swing states. Those lawsuits have been rejected by courts across the country but have inflamed many of the president’s supporters.
In Washington, Republican gubernatorial candidate Loren Culp likewise has refused to acknowledge his loss to Inslee by more than a half million votes. He has criticized Wyman for promoting mail ballots and sued her in King County Superior Court last week.
Based on certified election results in all 50 states, Biden won 306 electoral votes, to Trump’s 232. Biden also won the national popular vote by more than 7 million votes, according to The Associated Press.
In Washington, Biden won easily, taking 58% of the statewide vote.
Despite the clear result here, tensions between Trump supporters and counterdemonstrators have led to violent clashes in Olympia since the Nov. 3 election. On Saturday, a Shoreline man was arrested after a shooting outside the state Capitol.
There were no reports of violence or other problems at the Capitol on Monday. A Washington State Patrol spokesperson said the agency had been on the lookout for potential threats.
Four years ago, four Washington electors went rogue and refused to vote for Hillary Clinton, despite her win in the state. Their revolt was part of a futile effort to deny Clinton or Trump an Electoral College majority.
There was no repeat this year as all electors cast their ballots as they had pledged to the winner of the popular vote: the Biden-Harris ticket.
Washington passed a law in 2019 allowing removal and replacement of so-called faithless electors who refuse to abide by the popular vote.
The state’s electoral votes will be added to those of the other 49 states and the District of Columbia. The results will be sent to Washington, D.C., and formally tallied in a joint session of Congress set for Jan. 6, with Vice President Mike Pence presiding.
Several electors in Olympia on Monday said despite their participation, they hope to see the antiquated Electoral College system done away with.
Danenberg called it a “Byzantine process that distorts our democracy where we have to wait to see if the candidate who got 7 million more votes actually won the election.”
Seattle Times staff reporter Joseph O’Sullivan contributed to this report.