Barbara Shimei, from Indivisible Hawaii, has graciously shared her research regarding all the steps required to get us from the elections to inauguration.

Thanks so much Barbara! Here’s her understanding.

  • 11/20/20 (state law) deadline for Georgia to finalize votes
  • 11/23/20 (state law) deadline for Pennsylvania to finalize votes
  • 11/30/20 (state law) deadline for Arizona to finalize votes
  • 12/1/20 (state law) deadline for Nevada to finalize votes
  • 12/8/20 (federal law “Safe Harbor” deadline) deadline for state election disputes to be resolved (i.e. recounts and court contests). As long as the states follow their internal dispute procedures (established prior to the election) and resolve all disputes prior to this date, the results are considered conclusive.
  • 12/14/20 Each state submits the results of its election to its electors
  • 12/14/20 Electors meet in each state to vote. Each elector votes separately for president and vice-president. Ballots in each state are counted and the results are signed by each elector and are sent to the President of the US Senate (the VP of the US). [see note 1]
  • 12/23/20 deadline for President of US Senate to receive the EC ballots
  • 1/3/20 new members of Congress are sworn in
  • 1/6/20 New Congress meets in joint session to open the EC envelopes and count the results. (There is a mechanism for dispute resolution. House and Senate have to agree before a state’s EC vote(s) can be rejected.) [see note 2]
  • 1/20/20 term of current President and Vice-President ends and unless re-elected they are out of office regardless of whether a successor has been identified

NOTE 1 The US constitution gives each state the power to determine how electors are chosen. Every state has decided to do this by popular vote. In most states the winner gets all the state’s electors. In two states (Maine and Nebraska) electors are decided on a district-by-district basis. If a state holds an election but the outcome is uncertain, the state can have a backup mechanism. Because the Constitution gives control to the State Legislature there has been recent discussion of whether the State Legislature can override the vote and name electors. This would allow Republican legislatures to name Republican electors regardless of the vote.

Nevada’s legislature and governor are Democratic so Nevada is safe (6 EC votes). Pennsylvania (20 EC votes) has a Republican legislature and a Democratic governor but the President of the Pennsylvania Senate (a Republican) has already stated several times that they will not go this route and will honor the outcome of the popular vote. Arizona (11 EC votes) and Georgia (16 EC votes) have Republican legislatures and governors but even if they pulled this trick Biden would still have 279 EC votes. (I have not reviewed Arizona and Georgia election law to see what their backup mechanism (if any) is for choosing electors and whether their laws permit legislative override. Will wait to do this until it might actually matter.)

NOTE 2 If for any reason there were to be a tie in the EC, the new US House votes by simple majority to elect the new President (one vote per state).

At present the new US House has 26 Republican states and 20 Democratic States. 3 states (Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Michigan) split 50-50 (this means they do not vote), and Iowa is outstanding (if we win District 2 the state will split 50-50 and if we lose District 2 the state will go in the Republican column). Means if there is a tie in the EC and the vote goes to the House, we lose.

The new Senate votes by simple majority (one vote per state) for new Vice-president. At present the split is R48-D48.

If no new president is elected by inauguration day, the new vp acts as president until the House elects a president. If there is no new president or new vp, the Speaker of the new House acts as president until the House selects a president or the Senate selects a vp.