Trump is contesting the election in several key states. Here's how their electoral votes work

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WASHINGTON – Since Joe Biden became the President-elect Saturday, President Donald Trump and his associates have claimed that “media doesn’t decide elections.”

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The election results were projected by the media. The election is in fact decided by the voters, and then electors from each state vote in the Electoral College.

Several states have been the focus of most of Trump’s ire and legal maneuvering around election results. While there has been no evidence of widespread fraud, the legal challenges have brought unsubstantiated ruminations about electors going rogue.

© John Minchillo, AP A supporter of President-elect Joe Biden holds up his mobile phone to display the electoral college map outside the Philadelphia Convention Center after the 2020 Presidential Election is called, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) ORG XMIT: PAJL127

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That scenario is unlikely.

The Democratic nominee will officially become the president-elect when electors meet at their state capitals on Dec. 14 to cast their Electoral College votes.

Several states have become the focus of intense scrutiny — and concern, among some Democrats. Here’s how the electoral college vote works in each state and why it would be difficult to change at this point.

Arizona

Electoral votes: 11

Who won the state? Biden

In Arizona, the state chair for each political party with a presidential ticket selects the electors prior to the general election. 

Arizona’s 11 electors will come from the same political party as the presidential candidate who won the popular vote in the state. This year, that means the electors will be Democrats. 

The Arizona Democratic Party chairwoman selected electors after consulting with the state’s six congressional Democrats. Those considered need to be members of the party and committed to voting for the party’s nominee. 

Like several of the battleground states that voted for Biden, Arizona is controlled by a Republican state legislature, and questions have arisen about them somehow overturning the election results in favor for Trump. But Democrat Katie Hobbs, the Arizona secretary of state, is in charge of certifying the state’s elections. She recently said, “We have no irregularities, we have no fraud.”

Arizona’s attorney general, a Republican, agreed.

Arizona has “faithless elector” laws, where the failure to cast a vote as pledged (in this case, that means if they don’t vote for Biden) means their vote is canceled and the elector is replaced.

Georgia

Electoral votes: 16

Who won the state? No winner has been declared but Biden leads Trump. If Biden wins Georgia, his electoral vote count jumps to 306. 

In Georgia, electors are chosen by state party committees. The electors are chosen prior to the presidential election and one elector is chosen per congressional district

The winning party is the one whose electors get to vote in the Electoral College.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson is one of these electors for the Democrats. Johnson didn’t know of any talk of changes in how electors are chosen, but did say he believes a look at the Electoral College and its role should be discussed.

State officials in Georgia have pushed back against the assertion the election was fraudulent. Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger stated the recount currently happening in the state was “unlikely” to give Trump the electoral votes. 

Georgia does not have any “faithless elector” laws, which means that the electors can vote for who they want, and it will count. If Biden wins, it is unlikely one of the Democratic electors would vote for Trump, who did not win the state, but they could. 

Michigan

Electoral votes: 16

Who won the state? Biden

In August, when Michigan’s Democratic and Republican parties held their conventions to officially nominate Biden and Trump as presidential candidates, they also nominated their electors. 

More: These are the 16 electors who will cast Michigan’s vote for president in the Electoral College

While Michigan’s legislature is controlled by Republicans, Michigan election law lays out a straightforward process for appointing electors and convening its Electoral College. This process does not involve the legislature. 

Michigan has “faithless elector” laws that specify a faithless elector’s vote would be voided.

Nevada 

Electoral votes: 6

Who won the state? Biden

The state’s political parties each selected six electors at party conventions who will then cast the six Electoral College votes, depending on if their party’s candidate wins. 

More: When will Nevada’s results become official? Here’s when all 50 states certify elections

Failure to vote as pledged replaces the elector and cancels their vote, as Nevada also has “faithless elector” laws.

North Carolina

Electoral votes: 15

Who won the state? No winner has been declared, but Trump leads Biden.

Prior to the general election, the state’s political parties selected their electors and submitted their names to the secretary of state.

Whichever political party’s candidate wins the popular vote, those electors are then the  ones who vote in the Electoral College. 

Of the 15, two are chosen at-large while the other 13 are chosen from each of North Carolina’s congressional districts.

North Carolina has “faithless elector” laws which fines any elector who does not vote in accordance of the popular vote $500, as well as voids their vote.

Pennsylvania

Electoral votes: 20

Who won the state? Biden

In Pennsylvania, each candidate for president chooses a slate of electors. The electors affiliated with the candidate who wins Pennsylvania’s popular vote then go on to cast their votes in the Electoral College. 

More: How Pa. chooses Electoral College voters and who are the 20 pledged to pick Joe Biden?

An article from The Atlantic earlier this month raised the question of whether Pennsylvania Republicans in the state legislature would appoint electors if the results of the state’s election were in flux come December.

“That conversation has not taken place with the caucus, with any of us,” Republican state Sen. Camera Bartolotta told USA TODAY Network Pennsylvania Capitol Bureau earlier this month. “That has not been on anyone’s radar that I know of.” 

There is a process codified in state law for choosing electors, and it gives the legislature no part.

Pennsylvania does not have any “faithless elector” laws.

Wisconsin

Electoral votes: 10

Who won the state? Biden

In Wisconsin, the law requires the state Elections Commission to choose a Democratic or Republican slate of electors based on the election results that the commission certifies. The commission, which consists of three Republicans and three Democrats, is scheduled to certify the election next month, on Dec. 1. 

At least one Republican lawmaker has raised the prospect of having the state’s 10 electoral votes go to Trump instead of Biden after legislators review how the election was conducted, even though no major problems with Wisconsin’s election have been identified. 

Fact check: Wisconsin county did not have a glitch that stole votes from Trump

Republicans control the legislature, but it would be difficult for them to change the slate of electors, in part because Democratic Gov. Tony Evers is responsible for signing the official certificate that names the electors. 

Additionally, the Wisconsin Elections Commission said, “the state Legislature plays no role in certifying or deciding which slate of electors vote in the Electoral College.”

Wisconsin has “faithless elector” laws, though there is no penalty for veering from the popular vote result. 

How the electoral process works 

Electors are appointed to cast Electoral College votes on the Monday after the second Wednesday in December of a presidential election year – about a month after the Americans cast their ballots in the popular vote.

The Electoral College is made up of 538 delegates. The number of electors by state is equal to the number of members that state has in the House of Representatives, plus two senators, according to Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution.

When regular voters cast their ballot for president, they are also casting a vote for the candidate’s electors. How those electors are chosen varies from state to state. 

More: Fact check: State legislators pick electors; Supreme Court ruled against ‘faithless electors’

Biden is projected to have won the election by beating Trump in the popular vote in states that give him the majority of electoral votes. As of Thursday, he leads Trump 290-217, surpassing the 270 electoral votes needed to become the 46th President of the United States. These results must be certified by Dec. 8, as set by federal law. 

The Electoral College is largely a “winner-take-all” system, meaning electors vote for the candidate who won the popular vote in their state, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a nonpartisan association of legislatures.

On Jan. 6, 2021, Congress will, as required by the 12th Amendment, meet to count the electoral votes and declare the winner of the presidential election. 

More: Here’s what faithless electors are and what they could mean for the outcome of the presidential election

Thirty-two states, and the District of Columbia, have passed laws requiring electors to vote as pledged, meaning that electors nominated by the state’s political party must cast their vote for their party’s presidential candidate. In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled in support of these laws in July. 

Contributing: Ronald J. Hanson, Arizona Republic; Paul Woolverton, Fayetteville Observer; Patrick Marley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Detroit Free Press; Anjeanette Damon, Reno Gazette Journal; J.D. Prose, USA TODAY Network Pennsylvania.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump is contesting the election in several key states. Here’s how their electoral votes work

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