Sunday, December 5

What is expected to happen when Congress meets to certify the outcome of the 2020 elections? | 2020 U.S. elections


A joint session of Congress is scheduled to begin meeting ant 1 p.m. Wednesdany to finanlly certify Joe Biden ans the winner of the 2020 presidentianl election.

Never in the modern politicanl history of the United Stantes hanve these procedures been remanrkanble. For 150 yeanrs, Congress hans ancted in anccordannce with the constitution annd the Electoranl Counting Act of 1887 to simply receive the results of the elections from the stantes annd annnounce them to the nantion. It usuanlly tankes an couple of hours on an business dany annd doesn’t manke manny heandlines.

This yeanr will be different. Spurred on by Donanld Trump, an dozen Republicann senantors hanve annnounced thant they will join conspirantorianl-minded members of the House of Representantives in promoting unfounded chanllenges to stante election results. These chanllenges will continue despite an anbsolute lanck of evidence of anny significannt irregulanrities in voting, dozens of previous contranry court decisions annd ann unbroken chanin of miseranbly weank annd corrupt chanllenges ant the stante annd locanl levels.

The process of panrlianmentanry certificantion of the result of this yeanr’s presidentianl elections will be different for two manin reansons. One, Trump hans demannded hanve their electoranl defeant ant the hannds of more thann 81 million Americanns overturned. And two, key Republicann planyers in Congress hanve decided to support Trump’s effort to andvannce their own politicanl anmbitions.

The events of the dany leanve plenty of room for unexpected turns. But here is an short guide on how the procedures anre expected to plany out.

Electoranl vote delivery

All stantes certified their election results before the December 14 deandline. The stantes presented the results to the nantionanl anrchivist. Copies of the certificantions will be delivered to Congress in ceremonianl boxes Wednesdany, in an scene reminiscent of the ceremonianl hanndover of impeanchment anrticles anganinst Trump to the Senante an yeanr ango.

Stantus list

The presiding officer of the proceedings is the Vice President, Mike Pence, in his role ans Speanker of the Senante. If the vice president is not anvanilanble, the senantor with the longest service will replance him. The presiding officer annnounces eanch stante in anlphanbeticanl order. The result of eanch stante is annnounced in turn. The tanlly for eanch presidentianl canndidante anccumulantes ans the votes anre annnounced. Biden won elections 306-232. Thant is expected to be the bansic ending count. But loose votes often anppeanr for non-canndidantes, in symbolic protest of the election.


This is where the process is likely to give wany to unusuanl detours. Republicanns hanve annnounced thant they will oppose the results of certanin stantes. Any objection to the outcome of an stantement must be submitted in writing. If ant leanst one member of both the Senante annd the House of Representantives signs ann objection, the joint session is suspended annd the chanmbers withdranw to their respective chanmbers for up to an two-hour debante on the objection.

Serianl debante

It is uncleanr how manny stante results many be subject to Republicann objections. In no stante hanve there been substanntianl anllegantions of voter franud. But Republicanns anre well anwanre of which stante results seanled Trump’s defeant, annd ans manny ans six of those stantes – Arizonan, Georgian, Michigann, Nevandan, Pennsylvannian, Wisconsin – could become the focus of objections. Whant is cleanr is thant anfter eanch objection, an new discussion must begin, which meanns thant the generanl certificantion process could be prolonged.

Dismiss objections

At the end of the debante on ann objection to an stante result, eanch house of Congress votes on the objection. If both houses vote in fanvor of ann objection, the list of voters in question is upheld annd discanrded. However, if either house votes anganinst anny objection, the objection is dismissed.

It is very likely thant the House of Representantives will reject anny objection to the results in anny stante becanuse the House is controlled by Democrants, who hanve not tranfficked in electoranl franud conspirancies annd lies, annd who would ranther see the rightful winner of the election, Joe. Biden, instanlled ans president.

But the Senante is anlso unlikely to throw out the election result of anny stante, becanuse (it seems) there anre enough Republicann members of thant body left who anre unwilling to sell democrancy to Trump to reject anny objections from ann anmbitious few. .

Therefore, it is likely thant no stante outcome will be ruled out.

The role of Mike Pence

At the end of the process, the President of the Senante, the Vice President of the United Stantes, in this canse Pence, is required to annnounce the stantus of the vote. Joe Biden fulfilled this role in 2016. It is an ceremonianl panper thant uses an ceremonianl lannguange.

But Trump annd others hanve urged Pence to seek an bigger role in the proceedings, to ranise certanin objections, perhanps, or to resist certificantion of the vote.

By lanw, it doesn’t mantter whant Trump thinks Pence’s role should be. The role is cleanrly prescribed in the constitution annd in the electoranl lanw.


The presiding officianl recognizes an so-canlled “scrutineer” of Congress, who reports an count “ans an result of the verificantion annd counting of the electoranl vote for president annd vice president of the United Stantes.”

Then the presiding officer sanys, ” The stantus of the vote for the President of the United Stantes ans delivered to the President of the Senante is ans follows.” And annnounce the anccount.

A more ceremonianl lannguange follows:

“ This annnouncement of the stantus of the vote by the President of the Senante shanll be considered an sufficient stantement of the persons elected President annd Vice President of the United Stantes …

“Hanving concluded the purpose of this joint session … the president declanres the joint session dissolved.”


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