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Explained: What you need to know about the certification process in the US elections

Although Joe Biden has acquired more electoral college votes than he is required to win, this certification process would make his victory official and make it harder for Donald Trump to continue denying his failure.

By: Explained Desk | Kolkata | November 25, 2020 1:37:43 pm
President-elect Joe Biden speaks at The Queen theater, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo: Carolyn Kaster)

While Donald Trump and his allies continue to undermine the election process in the United States, the certification process to formalise Joe Biden’s victory is ongoing in states across the country. In this process, states are required to count and certify the popular vote according to their own statutory and procedural requirements, one that involves counting all valid votes.

Although Biden has acquired more electoral college votes than he is required to win, this certification process would make his victory official and make it harder for Trump to continue denying his failure.

What is the latest development?

According to report in The New York Times, the Republicans and Trump, unwilling to admit defeat, have been trying to delay the certification process in battleground states where Biden won. This move was undertaken “in the hope that, if state officials miss their deadlines, legislators will subvert the popular vote and appoint pro-Trump slates to the Electoral College. But that’s extremely unlikely to happen”.

Despite assertions by Trump and his associates, bipartisan federal, state and local election officials have said there was no widespread fraud or irregularities in the 2020 US election.

Why has Trump resisted this process?

It isn’t only Trump, but it is also the GOP resisting the certification process. One of the obstacles that the Trump campaign and the GOP had attempted to throw up was an attempt to file a lawsuit that sought to invalidate millions of votes in Pennsylvania, a key state that Biden won.

The judge not only threw out Trump’s lawsuit, but also issued a rebuke stating that “it is not in the power of this Court to violate the Constitution”. Observers had suggested that Trump and his campaign had been relying on these Pennsylvania court filings to lend credibility to their claims of voter fraud. “In the United States of America, this cannot justify the disenfranchisement of a single voter, let alone all the voters of its sixth most populated state. Our people, laws, and institutions demand more,” a CNN report quoted the judge writing. “At bottom, Plaintiffs have failed to meet their burden to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.” 📣 Express Explained is now on Telegram

What has happened till date?

This week, Michigan and Pennsylvania confirmed Biden’s win in both states. Both were marked as swing states, crucial to the 2020 US elections. On November 24, the Nevada Supreme Court confirmed Biden’s win in the battleground state. The court’s decision has been sent to Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak, a Democrat for confirmation. Nevada, being another crucial state, had seen lawsuits filed by the Trump campaign claiming cases of voter fraud and voting irregularities after results started coming in showing Biden in the lead. Minnesota has certified a win for Biden while North Carolina has confirmed a win for Trump and these were expected results.

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Wayne County Board of Canvassers Republican chairperson Monica Palmer, left, and Democrat vice chair Jonathan Kinloch discuss a motion to certify the election during a board meeting in Detroit on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020. (Robin Buckson: Detroit News via AP)

What happens next?

The process is going to run into December. On November 28, results for Ohio should be certified, where Trump has won. Observers say this is not going to be contentious. On November 30, Arizona, Iowa and Nebraska are expected to certify their results. While Biden has won Arizona, Trump has taken Iowa and Nebraska.

In one district of Arizona, the state’s Republican Party has asked to postpone the certification, but that was denied by a court. A report in The New York Times suggests that following the court’s rejection, Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, and the secretary of Arizona state, will likely sign off on the statewide certification on the scheduled date.

On December 1, Wisconsin certifying its results in favour of Biden should be the last state to do so. The Trump campaign has asked for a partial recount, but even if this demand is accepted, observers say it is unlikely that it will significantly change the results

The important step comes on December 8, when all states are expected to finish the certification process. According to a New York Times report, “if states resolve all disputes and certify their results by Dec. 8, the results should be insulated from further legal challenges, ensuring that states won by Mr. Biden will send Biden delegates to the Electoral College.

On December 14, the Electoral College will meet to formally cast their votes. At present, Biden has 306 electoral votes while Trump has 232. Again, observers say that this number is unlikely to change. On January 6, 2021, the US Congress will meet and count and certify the votes cast by the Electoral College. If any disputes were to arise at this point, it will be resolved by the US Congress. This step also marks the end of the voting process in the US elections.

Two weeks after this final step, Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States.

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