What to expect when GOP members of Congress object to the counting of Electoral College votes on January 6
- On January 6, Vice President Mike Pence will preside over a joint session of Congress to count the Electoral College votes submitted by states.
- Dozens of House lawmakers and at least 13 GOP Senators have announced their intention to challenge slates of electors from multiple states that voted for Biden.
- The challenges are unprecedented in modern history.
- Members of Congress have the authority to challenge the counting of states' slates of electors, which will force both chambers to leave the joint session to debate and vote on each objection separately.
- The objectors will delay the proceedings for several hours and possibly drag them into Thursday if they object to multiple states, but it will not have any impact on the actual outcome of the election.
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On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence will preside over a joint session of Congress to count the Electoral College votes submitted by states in another affirmation of President-elect Joe Biden's victory over President Donald Trump in November's election
In previous modern election cycles, this joint session has been a constitutional formality that passes with little fanfare. But for the first time in US history, dozens of Republican members of Congress will likely challenge the counting of states' slates of electors.
Biden won 306 Electoral College votes compared to 232 for Trump when the Electoral College voted on December 14, 2020.
Dozens of members of the US House and fourteen Republican Senators have announced their intent to object to the counting of slates of electors from states that voted for Biden.
Read more: Secret Service experts are speculating in group chats about how Trump might be hauled out of the White House if he won't budge on Inauguration Day
Here's what you need to know about what will happen on January 6 and why:
- Under the Electoral College system, the constitution and federal law delegates the process of selecting presidential electors and certifying those results to the states.
- Congress doesn't certify the Electoral College votes. It only counts slates of presidential electors submitted and certified by each state and the District of Columbia.
- Still, under the Electoral Count Act of 1887, members of Congress can object to the counting of a state's slates of electors that were "lawfully certified" by a state's governor if those votes were not "regularly given."
What's the process?
- At least one member of the House and one member of the Senate must raise an objection to a state's electors, at which point both chambers of Congress, the House and Senate, go separately to debate the objection for no more than two hours before taking a vote.
- Politico's Olivia Beavers reported on Tuesday that lawmakers seem most likely to agree to object to counting slates of Biden electors from Arizona, Georgia, and Pennsylvania, with the possibility they may object to more or fewer states depending on how the day goes.
- The states' slates of electoral votes have to be counted in alphabetical order, meaning that the joint session can't move on to counting Arkansas' votes until they fully debate and vote on the challenge to Arizona's votes, for example.
Will it succeed?
- The objectors will delay the proceedings for several hours and possibly drag them into Thursday if they object to multiple states, but the objections will not have any impact on the actual outcome of the election.
- Both chambers of Congress must vote by a simple majority to reject a state's slate of electors.
- Democrats still control a majority in the US House, making any objection to Biden electors virtually dead on arrival.
- Republicans in the US Senate only have a narrow majority pending the outcome of two runoff elections in Georgia.
- And over 20 GOP Senators have now publicly stated or indicated that they will not vote to object to the counting of any state's Electoral College votes, dooming any chances of an objection passing through the Senate.
Has this happened before?
- Members of Congress from both chambers have forced debates and votes on slates of electors only twice since the passage of the Electoral Count of 1887.
- In 1969, two members of Congress objected to the counting of an electoral vote of a faithless elector in North Carolina, and in 2005, former Sen. Barbara Boxer and former Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones objected to counting Ohio's slate of electors for George W. Bush, citing widespread voter suppression in the state.
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