There is a lot of information, misinformation rumor and innuendo right now on voter fraud, office of the president elect on and on. We all knew it was going to be a mess, and it is. Let’s take a step back from the haze, and take our fingers out of our ears as no one is shouting at you here. Let’s just look at some facts.
Below are the specifics of what happens after Election Day. Yes there is a formal legal process. This has been used before (see 2000 election). In most cases the winner is clear and the loser concedes the contest which allows us to forego the Dec 8 deadline. That hasn’t happened yet, and despite all the screaming at Trump, he is within the rules for not conceding yet.
- Nov. 3, 2020: Election Day, when voters in each state will select their presidential electors. The 0presidential candidate, s/he is also casting a vote for the electors already selected by the party of that candidate. If a majority of voters in a state vote for the Republican candidate for president, the Republican slate of electors is elected. If a majority vote for the Democratic candidate, the Democratic slate of electors is chosen.
Above is one of Trump’s arguing points, we have an “election day” and the votes on that day are the only ones that can be counted (that’s the crux of his argument). Now this includes mail in ballots received on or before 11/3. Constitutionally he might have a point but I doubt highly the supreme court is going to impose a federal mandate on states here, normally they allow the states a great deal of latitude on how they handle voting.
- Dec. 8, 2020: Deadline for Resolving Election Disputes. All state recounts and court contests over presidential election results must be completed by this date. (3 U.S.C. § 5) . For the majority of states the date of certification is the same as for all contests, but in eight states there is a deadline that either directly references 3 USC §5 or uses similar language, requiring that disputes surrounding the selection of presidential electors be resolved in time to meet the “safe harbor” deadline: Indiana, Iowa, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. For detailed information on state post-election processes, please visit this page.
This is exactly what Gore used in 2000 and what Trump is using now. He does have the right to challenge the results if he thinks there is fraud. Of course he has to PROVE there is fraud and not just proclaim it. This is the deadline date, once we get here save for ongoing litigation state votes are certified.
- Dec. 14, 2020: Meeting of the Electors. The electors meet in each state and cast their ballots for president and vice president. Each elector votes on his or her own ballot and signs it. The ballots are immediately transmitted to various people: one copy goes to the president of the U.S. Senate (who is also the vice president of the United States); this is the copy that will be officially counted later. Other copies go to the state’s secretary of state, the National Archives and Records Administration, and the presiding judge in the district where the electors meet (this serves as a backup copy that would replace the official copy sent to the president of the Senate if it is lost or destroyed).
- Dec. 23, 2020: Deadline for Receipt of Ballots. The electors’ ballots from all states must be received by the president of the Senate by this date. There is no penalty for missing this deadline.
Both the points above are essentially the same, but this is when official Electoral ballots are signed by Electors. Generally these follow along the lines of the state mandate, meaning if Biden won NH and got 4 Electoral College votes, all 4 electors for NH would vote for Biden. Now there is no federal law, or constitutional requirement that electors must follow the will of the state vote outcome. There are however STATE penalties if they do not, and generally this never happens but it can. In theory those electors can chose not to vote for Biden and instead vote for Trump or vice versa, or not vote at all.
- Jan. 6, 2021: Counting of the Electoral Ballots. The U.S. Congress meets in joint session to count the electoral votes.
This is the end of the line, once these are counted by congress and verified by the joint session it becomes legal record. The person with 270+ wins. There is no going back, no more challenges. Now PRIOR to this the Supreme Court can order a delay if it has pending litigation pertaining to the election outcome. It’s highly unlikely but it can happen.
- Jan. 20, 2021: Inauguration Day. The president-elect becomes the president of the United States.
Whomever obtained the 270 is sworn in as the next president of the United States. Again this can be delayed if the counting of the Electoral Ballots was delayed. Once the ballots are verified by congress it’s usually 2 weeks after that inauguration happens.
So that is technically what we are looking at. Expect legal challenges to keep happening right until the deadline by Trump.
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