ALBANY — New York’s 29 electors gathered as the state’s 59th Electoral College in the Assembly chamber of the state Capitol on Monday afternoon to cast votes to solidify Democrat Joe Biden’s election as 46th president of the United States.
At noon Monday, 538 Americans convened in state capitols across the country and cast the most consequential votes of the 2020 election. The electors, or members of the Electoral College, took one of the final, formal steps in making Biden, of Delaware, president and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., vice president of the United States.
New York’s 29 electors gathered in the 6,100-square-foot Assembly chamber to cast their paper ballot votes in two boxes at the front of the chamber Monday, and include Gov. Andrew Cuomo, former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, state Attorney General Letitia James and state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.
“In this grand chamber today, you will set your hand unto history and elect our next president and vice president,” State Secretary Rossana Rosado said. “It is a solemn and essential duty — a duty that is part of the fabric of our Constitution and our democracy.”
New York electors unanimously cast 29 votes each for Biden and Harris. Congress is expected to count electors’ ballots Jan. 6.
Former St. Lawrence County Democratic Party Chairwoman June O’Neill and Livingston County Democratic Committee Chairwoman Judith Hunter were among those who cast a vote. Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan also participated as an elector Monday.
Hunter seconded the motion for the state’s Electoral College proceeding be legally printed and bound.
Electors typically cast their ballots for president in the Senate chamber, but held Monday’s proceedings in the larger Assembly chamber, which holds 1,049 people, to keep electors and staff safely distanced from each other and prevent transmission of the coronavirus.
Electors are required to meet in person at the Capitol to cast votes under state law.
Cuomo presided over the electors as Electoral College president with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx; and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers; serving as secretaries.
Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Davis Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo; and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer participated as electors in substitute of Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren and former New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, respectively.
“They have traveled there [to] do the people’s business and cast New York state’s official vote in the 2020 presidential election, and they are doing it under very difficult circumstances,” Cuomo said from the Assembly chamber.
Cuomo thanked the President and Secretary Clinton, who were the first to cast their votes.
“We thank you both deeply and sincerely and genuinely for all the great work you have done for this nation, thank you,” Cuomo said before leading the room in a round of applause.
Electors gave the Clintons a standing ovation.
Hillary Clinton, who Trump defeated in the 2016 presidential race, folded her hands and slightly bowed, giving a namaste gesture.
Other electors kissed their envelope before casting a ballot or gave Cuomo and secretaries two thumbs up.
Each state gets a number of votes corresponding to the size of its congressional delegation, including members of the House of Representatives and two senators each. Washington, D.C., gets three votes under a constitutional amendment ratified in 1961.
All states except two award their electoral votes in a single group to the winner of the presidential election in the state. Maine and Nebraska give a consolation prize of electors to the winners of each of their congressional districts.
“The brevity of our proceedings does not minimize the gravity of our actions, in fact, it’s quite the opposite,” Cuomo said. “This pandemic, these masks, this physical configuration are a stark reminder to the nation that government matters and leadership matters and good government cannot only improve people’s lives, but can literally save people’s lives. So today, let the people choose our government and let us move forward.”
The Assembly and state Office of General Service workers deep cleaned the chamber before Monday’s vote. Plexiglas barriers separated each elector.
Electors voted and unanimously agreed to donate their compensation to the New York City nonprofit organization Robin Hood Foundation, which fights poverty.
“We all thank the electors for their service, especially during this difficult time,” Cuomo said after the college voted to adjourn Monday. “Stay safe, enjoy the holidays safely and let’s all pray and work together as a people, community and a government for a better 2021. Congratulations and God bless.”
Tribune News Service contributed to this report.