So How Does the Electoral College Work? A Step-by-Step Guide to Monday’s Vote; and What Comes Next

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It’s finally here. December 14, 2020. A day which half of America couldn’t wait to arrive. A day that the other half of America wants no part of. Despite the protestations of that second half of the country, Joe Biden is all but guaranteed to be officially elected the 46th president of the United States, as 538 electors in all 50 states cast their votes. Then what?

With West Virginia certifying its presidential election results last Wednesday, all 50 US states and the District of Columbia have now certified the outcome of their respective results, according to various media reports on Thursday.

Given those certifications, Joe Biden is projected to win 306 electoral votes, and Donald Trump, 232. It takes 270 electoral votes of the 538 available to become president.

How does the Electoral College work?

As prescribed by Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, and later modified by the 12th Amendment, presidential electors from all 50 states and Washington, D.C. will meet on Monday to officially cast their ballots for president and vice president of the United States. The electors gather in their respective states to vote, individually and on paper ballots, for president and vice president. The electors record their votes in writing and then count them.

They sign six copies of a Certificate of the Vote, which are delivered by registered mail to:

  • one copy goes to the president of the U.S. Senate and will be officially counted in the Capitol on January 6
  • two copies go to the state’s secretary of state
  • two copies go to National Archives and Records Administration
  • one copy goes to the presiding judge in the district where the electors meet
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The location each state meets to cast its votes is generally set in state law; in most states, it’s the state capitol building or the governor’s office.

What time do electors vote?

The Constitution doesn’t require state electors to meet at a certain time. When they cast their ballots varies by state.

As reported by Fox News, meetings will happen between 10 a.m. EST and 7 p.m. EST, with the largest bulk of state meetings occurring between 11 a.m. EST and 1 p.m. EST.

Who are the electors?

Electors are selected in the spring or summer by state parties.

As reported by CNN, they’re often “party bigwigs; like governors, or elder statespeople.”

For example, former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are two of New York’s electors. (Of course they are.) Georgia’s Stacey Abrams — who still claims she had the 2018 Georgia governor’s race stolen from her by a “corrupt” secretary of state — is another. But most state electors are people you’ve probably never heard of.

Can you watch the electors cast their ballots?

In many cases, the states will livestream their Electoral College meetings. Here’s information for the critical states, as provided by Fox News:

Georgia, 12 p.m. EST on Georgia Public Broadcasting

Pennsylvania, 12 p.m. EST, via C-SPAN

Maryland, 12 p.m. EST, via its official state website

Michigan, 2 p.m. EST, via Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Facebook page

Wisconsin, 1 p.m. EST, via WisconsinEye

New Hampshire, 10 a.m. EST, via New Hampshire Department of State

Arizona, 1 p.m. EST, via official state website

Nevada, 11:30 a.m. EST, via official state website

What happens next?

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The U.S. Post Office has until December 23 to deliver the “certificates of vote” to the Senate. Congress then meets to count the electoral votes on January 6, with Vice President Mike Pence presiding. (How much is that job gonna suck for Pence?)

As noted by Fox News, if a member of the House and a member of the Senate both bring an objection to a state’s electoral slate — which is likely to occur, given the ongoing battle over the integrity of the election and its results — both chambers of Congress would have to sustain the objection; which ain’t gonna happen, with Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats in control of the House.

And finally.

The winner is sworn in as president on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2021.

The question is, given that the winner will presumably be Joe Biden, will the 45th president of the United States be in attendance to watch the 46th president of the United States sworn in? In my book, all bets are off.

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