Electoral College Affirms Biden’s Victory
Dear Rich Lifer,
The Electoral College gathered on Monday December 14, 2020, in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. to formally vote for the president.
Although every state has certified its votes since the November 3 election, this step has finalized President-Elect Joe Biden’s victory.
Now that the slate of electors who make up the Electoral College have cast their final votes, those votes will be sent to D.C. where they will then be counted by Congress on January 6.
After that, Joe Biden will be inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States on January 20, 2021 at noon.
This sequence of events is normally a mundane and traditional affair, but has taken on added significance this year due to President Trump’s ongoing disputes regarding the election results.
In fact, this past Friday the Supreme Court rejected the latest attempt to overturn election results in the form of a lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton seeking to void 20 million votes in four other states.
The system of the Electoral College has been clarified in the Constitution and detailed in U.S. law over the last 200 years. It has faced little adjustment since the 1870s when the transcontinental railroad and the telegraph were the latest and greatest in communication and innovation.
There have been many questions raised over the years about the Electoral College so today we want to break down some frequently asked questions about the process of electing the President and Vice President.
What Exactly is the Electoral College?
The Electoral College is not a place! It’s how we refer to the process by which the United States elects the President.
It was created by the nation’s founders as a compromise between those who favored a direct popular vote and those who wanted lawmakers to pick presidents.
The Electoral College process consists of the selection of the electors (more on that later), the meeting of the electors where they vote for President and Vice President, and the counting of the electoral votes by Congress.
Electors view the election results and sign six copies of a Certificate of the Vote. Each certificate contains two lists, one for the President and one for the Vice President. Once these copies are signed they are paired with paperwork from the state’s governor and sent to various places:
one copy goes to the president of the US 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, a backup, goes to the presiding judge in the district where the electors meet
What is the Significance of Monday, December 14?
According to the law, electors must meet on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December to vote. This timeline was set up to allow states enough time after Election Day (the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November) to settle disputes related to the election results.
Basically, it’s an elaborate way of placing the two-step process of US presidential elections, general and electoral, in the early part of November and December in order to give new presidents enough time to get to Washington for inauguration in January.
Remember, this timeline was established when a train across the country may have been the fastest mode of transportation.
On this day, the electors gather in their states and cast votes, individually and on paper ballots, for President and Vice President. The location where electors gather varies by state but is usually in the capitol building or governor’s office.
The Constitution is clear that electors, not voters, select the president and vice president.
Which leads us to our next question…
Who Are the Electors?
The Electoral College consists of 538 electors. A majority of 270 electoral votes is required to elect the President. Your state has the same number of electors as it does members in its Congressional delegation: one for each member in the House of Representatives plus two Senators.
Choosing an elector is a two part process. Each candidate running for President in your state has his or her own group of electors (known as a slate). The slates are generally chosen by the candidate’s political party in your state over the spring or summer, but state laws vary on how the electors are selected and what their responsibilities are. This is the first part of the process.
The second part of the process occurs during the general election when the voters in each state essentially select their state’s electors by casting their ballots.
The winning Presidential candidate’s slate of potential electors are appointed as the State’s electors (except in Maine and Nebraska).
The only written requirement by law — in Article II, section 1, clause 2 of the Constitution — states that no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an elector.
You are able to actually see the names of each state’s electors if you are curious! After the election, but before the Electoral College meets, each state is supposed to prepare certificates of ascertainment, an official document outlining the election result and the slate of electors.
That document is posted by the National Archives and can be found here.
Do Electors Have to Vote for their State’s Winner?
Long story short, there is no Constitutional provision or Federal law that requires electors to vote according to the results of the popular vote in their States.
However, some States require electors to cast their votes according to the popular vote. This requirement comes with penalties such as fines or removal of elector, if so-called “faithless electors” disregard the popular vote and cast their ballot for another candidate.
The Supreme Court recently upheld these faithless elector laws as constitutional in July 2020 and the National Association of Secretaries of State maintains a database of faithless elector laws.
Time will tell if republicans will verbally accept the now certified results, but like it or not, yesterdays’ results have cemented Biden’s win.
To a Richer Life,
The Rich Life Roadmap Team