Electoral college members will gather in their respective states on Monday to cast their official ballots for the president. Usually the process is little more than a formal obligation to stamp the November election results.
Not this year.
For weeks, President Trump and his allies have been pressuring Republican officials to ignore the popular vote in highly competitive states won by President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and to nominate their own voters who would favor Mr. Trump. You have also asked courts to present the victory to the president in states he has lost.
But judges and Republican lawmakers have shown little appetite to undermine the democratic process, and voters have stayed. If they vote on Monday, Mr Trump is essentially guaranteed to finish the day he started: a president with a term.
Here you can learn more about how voting works and the next steps in the process:
Can I follow the vote of the electoral college?
Yes – most states offer live streams to see what goes on, including the crucial battlefields Mr Biden won. Here are links for four of them: Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Georgia.
Voters do not meet in one place or time; Some start at 10 a.m. east and most vote in the afternoon. California, the crucial state for Mr. Biden to get 270 votes for the electoral college, meets at 5:00 p.m. east.
Voters for each state and the District of Columbia meet in a legislature-chosen location, most often in the state’s capital. Delaware voters gather at a gym. Nevada is the only state holding its meeting practically this year.
How does the voting on the electoral college work?
Voters submit their voting papers for the President and Vice-President on paper. Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia legally require their voters to vote who wins the state’s referendum. So there shouldn’t be any surprises there. The other 17 states do not “tie” their voters, which means they can vote for whoever they vote.
The voters were elected by the states parties (for example, if Mr Biden won a state, the Democrats’ electoral roll cast the vote). Typically, voters are political activists, officials, donors, and people closely related to the candidates – which means they are very likely to vote for the candidate they have promised to support. In 2016, seven voters cast protest votes for someone other than their party’s candidate. But the likelihood that “unfaithful voters” will switch sides and hand the election over to Mr. Trump is essentially zero.
After voters cast their ballots, the votes are counted and voters sign certificates with the results. These are paired with certificates from the governor’s office showing the state’s vote count. The certificates will be sent to Vice President Mike Pence in his capacity as President of the Senate. the office of the federal register; the state secretary of the respective state; and the chief judge of the federal district court where voters meet.
What happens next?
Congress will officially count the votes in a joint session on January 6th in the Chamber of the House under the chairmanship of Mr. Pence. Mr. Pence opens the certificates – in alphabetical order by state – and presents them to four “cashiers,” two from the House and two from the Senate, who count the votes. When Mr. Biden achieved a majority with 270 votes, Mr. Pence announced the result.
The procedure is strictly prescribed by federal law, right down to the place where various politicians sit in the chamber. (Mr. Pence is given the speaker’s chair, Speaker Nancy Pelosi sits on his left, and the “cashiers” sit at the employees’ desks.)
The session cannot end until the count has been completed and the result has been publicly declared. At this point the choice is officially decided. The only remaining task is the inauguration on January 20th.
Which Congress is running the process?
Since the new members will be sworn in on January 3rd, the next congress will hold this joint session. Democrats will keep control of the house. And Republicans will control the Senate regardless of the results of the Georgia runoff election on Jan. 5, as Mr. Pence will remain in office to serve as the casting vote if the chamber is split between 50 and 50.
Can Congressmen Block the Results?
No debate is allowed during the counting of votes. After the result is read, members of the Congress will have an opportunity to voice their concerns.
Any objection to the results of a state must be in writing and signed by at least one senator and one member of the House. The two chambers would then separate to discuss the objection. Each member of Congress can speak only once – for five minutes – and after two hours the debate is suspended. Each body then votes on whether the state’s results should be rejected.
Since the election of the Electoral Census Act in 1887, there have been only two cases of objection by Congress in 1969 and 2005. Neither the House nor the Senate have passed.
What is the likelihood that Congress will change the outcome?
Keeping Mr Biden out of office remains a long-term strategy for Republicans.
In order for an objection to stand, it must pass both Houses of Congress with a simple majority. If the vote followed party lines, Republicans could not block Mr Biden’s victory.
Democrats control the house, so an objection there would be doomed to fail. In the Senate, Democrats would only have to select a few Republicans to join them and reject the appeal. A number of Republican Senators have named Mr. Biden President-Elect.
With some Trump allies already planning to object, the congressional session should result in good political theater. However, the process has little chance of changing the election result.