US Presidential Election 2020 Timeline



4 November 2020, Kathmandu

The election process for President and Vice President in the United States follows a familiar timeline of events every four years.

A related series of procedures governing the Electoral College actions proceeds on a parallel track.

After the election on November 3, on November 4 to December 14, 2020, there will be the counting of Popular Votes and Filing Certificates of Ascertainment.

The states will count and certify popular vote results according to their respective statutory and procedural requirements.

After the States complete their vote counts and ascertain the official results, the U.S. Code (3 U.S.C. §6) will require the state governors to prepare, “as soon as practicable,” documents called “Certificates of Ascertainment” of the vote.

The certificates will have to list the names of the electors chosen by the voters. It will also have the number of votes received in the popular election results, and the number of votes they received.

Certificates of Ascertainment, which are often signed by state governors, must carry the seal of the state. One copy is forwarded to the Archivist of the United States (the Archivist), while six duplicates of the Certificate of Ascertainment must be provided to the electors by December 14, the date on which they meet.

On December 8, 2020, the “Safe Harbor” Deadline The U.S. Code (3 U.S.C. §5) provides that if election results are contested in any state, and if the state, prior to election day, has enacted procedures to settle controversies or contests over electors and electoral votes, and if these procedures have been applied, and the results have been determined six days before the electors’ meetings, then these results are considered to be conclusive, and will apply in the counting of the electoral votes.

This date is also known as the “Safe Harbor” deadline that falls on December 8 in 2020.

The governor of a State where there was a contest, and in which the contest was decided according to established state procedures, is required (3 U.S.C. §6) to send a certificate describing the form and manner by which the determination was made to the Archivist as soon as practicable.

On December 14, 2020: The Electors Vote in their States after the second Wednesday in December of the presidential election years is set (3 U.S.C. §7) as the date on which the electors meet and vote.

This year, the meeting is on December 14. The Electoral College delegations meet separately in their states and the DC at places designated by their state legislature.

The electors then vote by the paper ballot, casting one ballot for President and one for Vice President.

The electors then count the results and sign six certificates — known as Certificates of the Vote, which the electors are required to sign.

They also pair the six Certificates of Ascertainment provided by the state governors with the Certificates of the Vote, and sign, seal, and certify them (3 U.S.C. §§8-10).

These six certificates are distributed by the registered mail as follows: (1) one certificate to the President of the U.S. Senate (the Vice President); (2) two certificates to the secretary of state (or equivalent officer) of the state in which the electors met; (3) two certificates to the Archivist; and (4) one certificate to the judge of the U.S. district court of the district in which the electors met.

December 23, 2020: Certificates should be delivered to the Designated Officials Certificates of electoral vote results must be delivered to above mentioned officers by the fourth Wednesday in December, in 2020, by December 23.

If the certificates have not been delivered by December 23, 2020, the President of the Senate will request the secretary of state or equivalent officer in that state to send one of the copies they hold to the President of the Senate by registered mail.

January 6, 2021: Joint Session of Congress to Count Electoral Votes and Declare Election Results Meets on the 6th of January, the Senate and House of Representatives assemble at 1:00 p.m. in a joint session at the Capitol, in the House chamber, to count the electoral votes and declare the results.

Likewise, the Vice President presides as President of the Senate, opens the certificates and presents them to four tellers, two from each chamber.

The tellers will then read and make a list of the returns. As the votes have been ascertained and counted, the tellers then transmit them to the Vice President.

January 20, 2021: Presidential inauguration

The President and Vice President are to be inaugurated. The 20th amendment set the date for inaugurations as January 20.

The Vice President takes the oath first followed by the President.

(With inputs from Congressional Research Service)

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