While fears grow over the America’s ability to conduct a presidential election during a pandemic, the Constitution and federal law establishes a strict and detailed timetable following Election Day. Here are five facts on the post-Election Day timeline.
- State electors are nominated before November 3rd and then selected after the popular vote is counted.
In the months leading up to the election the Republican and Democratic parties nominate a slate of electors in each state. Parties typically select loyal and consistent members to ensure electors vote for their candidate. As voters cast their ballots for president and vice president on Election Day, they indirectly select their electors. In 48 states and Washington D.C. after the popular votes are counted and certified, the party of the candidate with the most votes choses their slate of electors. Two states — Maine and Nebraska — award electors proportional to the popular vote.
- States have 35 days after Election Day to resolve vote count disputes.
According to the Electoral Count Act of 1887, states have until six days before the electors cast their ballots to recount the popular vote or to resolve any disputes or court contests. The “safe harbor” provision of the act holds that Congress must accept the state’s reported vote count as long as it's within the 35-day period. This year the deadline for states to finalize and certify their election results is December 8th.
- 41 days after the Election Day electors meet to cast their votes.
Electors meet at their state legislatures to cast their votes for president and vice president. The ballots are then sent to the president of the U.S. Senate and duplicates copies to the state’s secretary of state, the National Achieves, and the presiding district judge. This year electors will meet on December 14th and the deadline for the U.S. Senate to receive the ballots is on December 23rd.
- Congress counts the Electoral College votes on January 6th.
Congress meets in a joint session to officially count the Electoral College votes from each state. Once a candidate receives 270 votes, the president of the Senate declares the winner of the election. Federal law sets out procedures for objections to specific electoral college votes, but challenging votes at this stage has only happened twice since the law was enacted in 1887 — in 1969 after an elector voted for another party’s candidate and in 2005 due to voting irregularities in Ohio. On January 20th the president-elect and vice president-elect are sworn into office.
- Senator Marco Rubio recently introduced a bill that would extend several election deadlines.
In an op-ed Senator Rubio explained the necessity of extending election deadlines due to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, he states that increased mail-in voting will cause logistical challenges for many states, which could “almost certainly lead to confusion, uncertainty, and perhaps chaos on election night.” His bill, S.4517, would push back the federal “safe harbor” date from December 8th to January 1st to give states more time to count votes. It would also extend the date on which electors cast their votes from December 14th to January 2nd.
No Labels is an organization of Democrats, Republicans, and independents working to bring American leaders together to solve problems.