Members of the US electoral college have begun casting their votes in a process that will see Joe Biden formally designated president-elect.

The Democrat won November’s contest with 306 electoral college votes to Republican Donald Trump’s 232.

Under the US system, voters actually cast their ballots for “electors”, who in turn, formally vote for candidates weeks after the election.

Despite this process, President Trump is not expected to accept the result.

Normally the electors do not get that much attention, but this year, due to Mr Trump’s persistent efforts to question and overturn the results – involving legal challenges which have been rejected by courts across the country – the state-by-state vote is in the spotlight.

Vermont, New Hampshire, Indiana and Tennessee were among the first states where electors gathered in capitals (or in Washington DC) on Monday to formally cast their votes.

The number of electors per state is roughly in line with the size of the population. California has the most electors and they will vote at 17:00 Eastern time (22:00 GMT).

That vote is expected to push Mr Biden over the 270-vote tally required to win the presidency.

When the voting process is complete, the results will be sent to Washington. They will be formally counted in a joint session of Congress on 6 January presided over by Vice-President Mike Pence.

Joe Biden plans to address the nation on Monday evening after the electors have voted, his transition team has announced.

In Michigan, legislative offices in the state capital Lansing were closed on Monday due to “credible threats of violence” ahead of the electoral college vote, taking place in the state Senate.

media captionCan you explain the electoral college in 10 seconds?

Members of the electoral college – who cast one vote for president and one for vice-president – almost always vote in line with whoever won the popular vote in their state. Some rogue electors are known to diverge but analysts say there is next to no chance that Mr Biden’s victory could be overturned.

Last month, President Trump said he would leave office in January if Mr Biden were certified the election winner. But in the lead-up to Monday’s vote he has continued to make unsubstantiated claims of election fraud.

Analysis box by Anthony Zurcher, North America reporter

The quadrennial meeting of the US electoral college is usually a formality along the way to a presidential inauguration – a vestigial political event that long ago lost its power and relevance.

Donald Trump’s scorched-earth strategy of contesting the results of the 2020 election, however, has given the proceedings new attention.

Although his legal team has had little success in challenging the results of the vote in multiple battleground states, the official recording of the electoral college ballots across the US will effectively lower the curtain on these long-shot judicial manoeuvres.

That doesn’t mean the Trump team is giving up, of course. It’s holding alternative electoral college proceedings with an alternate set of votes that will declare the president the real winner. They’ll continue with futile court challenges and, eventually, ask Congress to overturn the election results.

It’s an alternative reality that Donald Trump’s supporters may find more comforting than the one where Joe Biden is president-elect.

Given that the House of Representatives is controlled by Democrats, the official electoral college tally will have been duly certified by the states on Monday and federal law is on Mr Biden’s side. Mr Trump’s chances of success in the real world, however, sit squarely at zero.

Source: BBC News