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Election Day is over: What’s next?

There are a series of steps that must take place before an American president can be officially selected.
Published: Nov. 11, 2020 at 10:14 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - As President Trump and his legal team continue to weigh their options in contesting election results, the clock is ticking for votes to become official.

Following Election Day, each state is required to count and certify its popular votes. By law, the governor of each state is supposed to certify the numbers ‘as soon as practicable,' according to the Associated Press.

Stewart Harris, a constitutional law professor at Lincoln Memorial University, said there are statutes that mandate state deadlines.

For example, the deadline for resolving election disputes within states is December 8. Recounts and court contests on the state level must be completed by this date as well, according to the Associated Press.

By December 14, Electoral College electors submit their paper ballot votes which must reach designated officials by December 23.

In 2021, on January 6th, the electoral votes are counted during a joint session between the House and the Senate. The president of the senate, currently Vice President Mike Pence, announces the results once one candidate has reached 270 or more electoral votes. Members of Congress can object to state returns as they’re announced, according to the AP.

In addition, Harris said, “There are a number of federal statutes that govern such things."

For instance, the formal presidential transition doesn’t start until Emily Murphy, the administrator of the General Services Administration, declares an apparent successful candidate, according to the Associated Press. However, federal regulations are unclear about how that determination is made. Once a decision is announced, it gives the federal government approval to move forward with the transition of power, the AP reports.

“That person has to certify that there is a presidential transition in process. Then millions of dollars are released and office space is made available to the incoming president team, security checks are done, all the things that are necessary you start with at that moment,” said Harris.

As of November 11, 2020, the GSA said it had not ascertained a president-elect. The AP reported that a GSA spokesperson said Monday: “An ascertainment has not yet been made. GSA and its Administrator will continue to abide by, and fulfill, all requirements under the law and adhere to prior precedent established by the Clinton Administration in 2000.”

A president-elect is sworn into office on January 20. If a president is not inaugurated on that day, as long as congress is sworn in, the Speaker of the House would act as President until one is determined. According to the Associated Press, the 12th Amendment outlines the process should election issues still prevent a winner from being named.

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