On Monday, 538 Americans will convene in state capitols across the country, swear an oath to uphold the Constitution, and cast the most consequential yet utterly anticlimactic votes of the 2020 election.
These are the electors, the members of the Electoral College, who will take one of the final, formal steps in making Joe Biden the 46th president of the United States and ending President Donald Trump’s desperate bid to overturn the results of the November election. These 538 people will mark small pieces of paper and drop them in ballot boxes; once counted, the votes in each state—preordained by the election—will be transmitted to the Senate, and on January 6, Congress will meet to tally the results and declare a winner to be inaugurated two weeks later. Despite Trump’s fervent wishes, the system will work just as it has in the past.
For Democratic electors, the ritual this year will undoubtedly bring more joy than it did four years ago. But for many of them, it will also carry a tinge of awkwardness as they participate in an institution—the Electoral College—that they no longer support.
Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers and a shortlist candidate for Biden’s education secretary, will be serving as a presidential elector in New York for the third time. After casting bittersweet ballots for Al Gore in 2000 and Hillary Clinton in 2016, Weingarten will be voting for a winner for the first time. “I was actually very moved by it last time,” Weingarten told me, “even though I think the Electoral College is one of the anarchic, anachronistic pieces of the Constitution that is in need of reform.”