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President-elect Joe Biden. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Tomorrow, state electors who'll finally cast their Electoral College votes formalizing Joe Biden's win, will gather in person at state capitols across the U.S., even during a pandemic.

Between the lines: Capitol compounds already provide security. But fear of unrest is heightening precautions. Meanwhile, states including California, Wisconsin, Maryland and New Mexico are live-streaming meetings so the public can watch safely from home.

  • "There are always logistical challenges" but "the pandemic is adding an extra layer this year," a National Archives official involved in discussions with states tells Axios.
  • The official said that because federal statute requires electors to sign the certificates of the votes, a completely remote ceremony would be logistically difficult.

How it works: While federal statute establishes the voting date, states can decide what time to hold their meetings of electors. The more populous states typically take longer to complete their ceremonies.

  • Electors vote twice — once for president and a second time for vice president —according to the National Archives.
  • The votes are recorded on six certificates, which are paired with the state's certification of election results. Every elector must verify and sign the sets of electoral votes.
  • Votes are sent by mail — some states require it to be through the U.S. Postal Service — to the National Archives and the Vice President.

Between the lines: To prevent Monday turning into a multistate superspreader event, states are requiring masks and enforcing social distancing. Texas officials said temperatures will be taken at the door at their gathering.

  • Peter Bartz-Gallagher, a spokesperson for the Minnesota secretary of state, tells Axios there will be "less ceremonial activity" this year. While in past years, many guests and observers were welcomed, in-person "attendance is limited this year to the electors and essential staff, with just a few spaces for members of the public."

One big question: How much impact could "faithless electors" have?

  • While 33 states and D.C. have laws forbidding electors from voting for someone other than the winner of their state's elections, few have penalties for doing so.
  • There have been "faithless electors" in the past, but they have never come anywhere close to impacting the election.
  • Experts think it's unlikely that there will be faithless electors this year because of the extra care taken by political parties to ensure their chosen electors will be loyal — lessons learned from 2016.
  • "We might see some Trump electors casting faithless votes as some sort of protest, but that wouldn't impact the outcome," election law expert Michael Morley tells Axios.

What we're watching: Edward Foley, an election law professor at The Ohio State University noted law enforcement’s concern about the possibility of unrest caused by Trump supporters around state capitols.

  • For Monday's Electoral College meeting to become politicized would be "unusual in terms of the sweep of American history," Foley said.

Go deeper

Jan 7, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Congress certifies Joe Biden's Electoral College win

The House reconvenes Wednesday night for the joint session after pro-Trump mobs stormed the Capitol. Photo: Saul Loeb - Pool/Getty Images

A joint session of Congress ended a day of siege by officially certifying on Thursday President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College win in the November election, the final step ahead of his Jan. 20 inauguration.

The bottom line: The final votes in Congress confirm that Biden will be the 46th president of the United States—despite some Republican lawmakers' challenges and the rampage through the Capitol by supporters of President Trump.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden readies massive shifts in policy for his first days in office.
  3. Vaccine: Fauci: 100 million doses in 100 days is "absolutely" doable.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode again.
  5. Tech: Kids' screen time sees a big increase.
  6. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.
Dave Lawler, author of World
3 hours ago - World

Alexey Navalny detained after landing back in Moscow

Navalny and his wife shortly before he was detained. Photo: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was detained upon his return to Moscow on Sunday, which came five months after he was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok. He returned despite being warned that he would be arrested.

The latest: Navalny was stopped at a customs checkpoint and led away alone by officers. He appeared to hug his wife goodbye, and his spokesman reports that his lawyer was not allowed to accompany him.