What is the Timeline for States to Certify Elections and the Electoral College to Finalize the Vote?
How do you feel about the process for certifying elections and finalizing electoral votes?
by Causes | 11.16.20
State Certification Timeline
- While most Americans think of Election Day as the conclusion of the electoral process, it actually represents the beginning of an official process for finalizing election results that takes several weeks.
- All states are required to have election-related legal challenges resolved by December 8th so that they can certify their election results by December 14th, but the process moves much faster in some states. This USAFacts chart shows the number of days between Election Day and the estimated certification deadline in each state:
- The states with the earliest certification deadlines are Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Vermont (November 11th). The states with the latest deadlines are California (December 11th) and Louisiana (December 10th).
- In addition to certification deadlines, states have additional deadlines for certifications and vote counts, along with legal challenges and recounts in advance of the certification deadline. USAFacts created a chart that allows you to see the timeline in each state, as the example for Pennsylvania below shows:
Electoral College Timeline
- November 3, 2020: Election Day is held across the country. Polls close at various times and states have different policies for when absentee or mail-in ballots must be received, which may impact the time it takes for a state to count their votes.
- December 8, 2020: States are required to resolve election contests and controversies at least six days before the electors meet, and December 8th is the “safe harbor” deadline for the 2020 election.
- December 14, 2020: Electors meet in their respective states to cast their votes for president and vice president. The electors count the results and sign six certificates, each of which contain lists with the electoral votes for the president and vice president. The six certificates are signed, sealed, certified, and delivered through registered mail as follows: one certificate goes to the president of the U.S. Senate (Vice President Mike Pence); two certificates go to the secretary of state in the state in which the electors met; two certificates go to the U.S. Archivist; and one certificate goes to the judge of the U.S. district court of the district in which the electors met.
- December 23, 2020: Certificates of electoral vote results must be delivered to the above officers by December 23rd.
- January 6, 2021: A joint session of the incoming 117th Congress will be held in the House chamber at 1pm to count the electoral votes and declare the results. The vice president presides as president of the Senate, opens the certificates, and presents them to four tellers, two from each chamber. The tellers read and make a list of the returns, and present them to the vice president. If one of the tickets received 270 or more electoral votes, the candidates are elected president and vice president.
- Potential Joint Session Challenges: While the tellers announce results, objections to any state’s returns may be raised in writing by at least one senator and one member of the House. If a qualified objection is raised, the joint session recesses so the House and Senate can debate the question in their chamber for up to two hours before voting to accept or reject the objection. The joint session is then reassembled and an objection to a state’s electoral vote must be approved by both houses for contested votes to be excluded.
- January 20, 2021: Inauguration Day is held, and the president and vice president are inaugurated.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: iStock.com / oleksii arseniuk)
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