The certification of the results of presidential elections in the USA has specific deadlines and rules in each state, but everyone must complete the process by December 14, the day when the Electoral College votes to elect the President.
The vote accounting goes through several verification and confirmation processes, being sent by the officers of each county until it is certified by the secretary of state of each state or by the independent figure of the chief / administrator of elections. The process can take weeks to complete.
This means, as a New York Times procedural diagram explains, that the results reported by states on election night and the following hours are not official. The results must be confirmed and certified until a final number is reached.
When margins are too short, several states have automatic recounts of votes.
Candidates can also request recounts if they dispute the accuracy of the numbers provided, even if the margin of difference is greater. This is a situation that makes a change less likely, when the difference is tens of thousands of votes, although it is not impossible.
The legal contestation of results usually takes place before certification is complete, which in the case of the 2020 presidential election may delay the entire process, given the diversity of legal cases that are already underway.
However, as political scientist Daniela Melo, who teaches at Boston University, explained to Lusa, “there may be a certification, but then the Supreme Court will make a decision that will consider this certification illegal”, which means that “the certification is not the definitive moment “.
What happens next depends on the state for the state, and the state legislature can intervene in the election of voters at the Electoral College who will elect the president on December 14. However, the law in most states (33) states that voters must follow the popular vote.
“The most dangerous thing for democracy is between now and the 14th. When voters [do Colégio Eleitoral] vote, from then on it will be a ‘fait accompli’ [facto consumado]”, said Daniela Melo.
These votes are then confirmed by Congress, which opens the new legislative session in January.
The new President’s term of office must begin on January 20, in this case 2021.
If legal disputes drag on and there is no President elected by the deadline, it will be the leader of the House of Representatives (where Democrats hold the majority), Nancy Pelosi, to be sworn in as President.
Donald Trump’s campaign initiated several lawsuits to dispute counts in Michigan, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania, joined a lawsuit in Arizona and called for a recount in Wisconsin.
In Pennsylvania, where Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump today, the dispute is over receiving postal votes.
Republicans contested the counting of votes stamped by the post office until election day, but which did not reach electoral authorities until the following days.
Democratic voters tended to vote by mail in greater numbers, which led to the counting of these ballots benefiting Joe Biden in decisive states such as Pennsylvania and Georgia.
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