- BBC World News
The US presidential elections still do not have an official winner, although Joe Biden is already widely called president-elect of that country.
This is how it is since last Saturday, November 7, according to the projections of results, the Democratic candidate surpassed the figure of 270 votes of the Electoral College (of 538) necessary to reach the presidency.
And Biden delivered his victory speech that same day, preceded by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, and has since appeared publicly on various occasions to discuss his government plans.
However, those projections about who is the “elected president” that the mainstream media make with the work of experts have traditionally been accompanied by recognition by those who have lost.
But this year, President Donald Trump has not acknowledged defeat and his campaign team has filed a series of lawsuits in several key states to dispute the results.
In one of his multiple reactions on social networks, the president stated that neither the media nor the pollsters have the power to declare who the president is.
How do you decide then?
A complex system
Unlike many other countries, the United States does not have a central electoral body to decide and certify the results of the national elections.
Each of the 50 states has its own rules and has different deadlines, which explains the confusion experienced these days in which the focus is basically on a handful of states in dispute.
And the media make their projections when their team of experts is very sure that it is something irreversible. So much so that that ad is usually enough to speak of a winner of the elections, although it has not been officially confirmed.
An example of this is the reaction of Ivanka Trump, daughter of the president, when the agency Associated Press screened his father’s victory in Alaska on Wednesday:
In 2020, however, we are facing an anomalous situation for several reasons.
On the one hand, the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing precautions caused voting by mail to skyrocket, slowing down the count in some places.
On the other, there is a president who is not willing to assume the projections of the states that may end up giving Biden the victory, breaking with a tradition in which the loser acknowledges defeat and offers his collaboration to the president-elect.
Instead, the Trump campaign and its legal team have filed lawsuits in some key states to block the process by which their electoral authorities certify the results.
What is the certification?
The certification of results is a step that the states adopt so that the winner of the elections in that territory can be officially confirmed.
Although the process varies by state, certification is usually completed within weeks of the election, before the delegation of each state in the Electoral College meets to cast their votes in mid-December.
The results that occur on election night are considered unofficial and the authorities of each state take time after the elections to finish counting the ballots.
To verify the results, officials recheck the vote totals and confirm that the handling of the ballots was correct.
The act of certification is typically done by the head of the state electoral body, the governor, or a board of campaign members.
How long it takes?
Each state has different processes to verify the final vote count before the authorities formally certify the results.
The process takes a few weeks, with each county certifying the results for its region and submitting them to state election authorities within a timeframe that varies from location to location.
Many of the states have already completed this process, but in several of the key territories the certification period remains open:
- In Nevada, the deadline is November 16.
- In Wisconsin, counties must provide certified results to the state election commission by November 17.
- In Georgia, Where until this Thursday no winner had been projected and Biden was ahead of Trump by about 15,000 votes, the deadline ends on November 20.
- In Michigan and Pennsylvania, counties must certify results by November 23.
- In Arizona, which until this Thursday did not have a winner either, the deadline is November 30.
In two of those states, Wisconsin and Georgia, it has been announced that there will be a vote count, an action that can only begin once the certification has been made.
Because it is important
The electoral authorities of each state take their time to verify the results to ensure the accuracy of the final count and detect possible technical problems, human errors or fraud; the latter, according to historical data, is very rare in the US.
These verification steps and the act of certification do not usually produce drastic changes from projections.
The process may be more important in very close races or local elections with a smaller number of voters and narrow margins.
To delay certification beyond the state deadline, the Trump campaign has to file a robust legal claim that shows that the alleged fraud or other issues are serious enough to change the outcome.
As of November 12, no evidence of fraud had come to light in the elections on the 3rd.
The following steps
Federal law establishes a day for the counts to be completed: it is the so-called “safe harbor” date that this year corresponds to December 8.
By then, under federal law, all state results information must have reached “safe harbor”; that is, it must have been delivered by the electoral authorities of each state.
Once certified by all states, there is still no official winner.
Another key day arrives: the Monday after the second Wednesday in December – the 14th of that month this year – which is the date on which the Electoral College delegates gather in each state capital to make their vote official.
The school It is made up of 538 voters in total, distributed by each state in proportion to the size of its population.
This meeting is usually purely ceremonial in nature.
The rule is that all delegates from each state vote for the candidate with the most votes. Although there have also been “voters without faith”, those who do not vote for the candidate for which they were proposed. Trump had two in 2016, as he won the election with 304 and not 306 that was supposed to be on election night.
There are only two states (Maine and Nebraska) that divide their electoral votes based on the proportion of votes each candidate gets.
A different year
But as events are unfolding, this year’s Electoral College decision may not be a mere formality.
Keep in mind that, ultimately, it is the state legislature that decides which candidate the delegates are assigned to if there is no certified winner.
It cannot be ruled out that, due to the president’s allegations of alleged fraud, the state legislatures in Republican hands decide not to accept as valid the results of the elections in their own state.
Thus, on December 14 there may be a situation in which two groups of delegates from the Electoral College of the same state face: one that adheres to the winner of the popular vote in the state and another that follows the mandate of the legislature state.
In that case, the law states that it is up to the US Congress to choose between the two groups of delegates sent by the state, something that has not happened since 1876.
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