So, many of us are, by now, thoroughly tired of certain people refusing to admit that the 2020 Presidential election is, in fact, over.
Yesterday, the electoral college voted, with no faithless electors, alternate slates, or other shenanigans.
The vote was live streamed, something I hope we will continue to do for as long as we have an electoral college. Transparency is good.
So, there’s one last thing which has to happen:
Congress has to count the votes.
Why Does Congress Count Electoral Votes?
The founding fathers distrusted mass democracy, as did most at the time. The franchise, when this country was founded, was limited to white landowners, and to men.
They did not envision the President being elected directly by the people.
Because of this, they implemented the electoral college, and the original idea was that the President would be chosen by the states.
Over time, the President became a directly-elected position, but through a kind of, well, kludgy solution that avoided the need to rewrite chunks of the constitution. The electoral college we know and love came into being.
The electoral college met on Monday, December 14, and officially cast their votes.
Those votes are then certified in two lists (President and Vice President), of which six copies are made. One copy goes to the President of the Senate, who is also the Vice President. Two copies are held by the state, two go to the Archivist of the United States, and the last one is kept in the federal courthouse where the electors assembled.
They have to be received by December 23.
These votes are then opened and counted by the President of the Senate. In the days before instant communications, this made sure that the final decision was known to all of the lawmakers. Nowadays, it seems like a quaint, but at least harmless, tradition. The count is scheduled for January 6.
Can Pence Change the Votes?
No, and with the voting having been live streamed, there’s no way to change anything. Everyone knows what they were, so any shenanigans of this nature would be immediately public and transparent.
The votes will be read by tellers, one in the Senate, and one in the House. We don’t know who those people will be, but the House teller will almost certainly be a Democrat and the Senate teller a Republican. They tend to be members of the House Administration and Senate Rules and Administration Committes. They aren’t allowed to change the votes, just read them. They also may read the formal portions of the certificate. In some cases this has been waived. This year it’s likely they will do so, though.
Pence will then announce who won, and at that point the election is officially over. Imagine when you had to wait until January to find out who won!
Of course, back then they weren’t used to the instant news cycle, so it probably didn’t seem as much of a hassle.
Can Trump’s Cronies do Anything at all?
So, are there any remaining doors open to, well, shenanigans?
Yes, but it probably will only make people look bad (not that they care) without achieving anything.
What they can do is object to the votes of specific electors. They have to object in writing, and any objection must be signed by at least one Senator and at least one Representative. There are two grounds that can be used to object:
- The vote was not “regularly given” by the elector, which generally means what we call a faithless elector. This is a mechanism to help protect us from faithless electors, those who vote other than the way they are supposed to.
- The elector was not “lawfully certified,” meaning that some state procedure was not properly followed.
So, in theory, a bunch of Republicans could get together and force Congress to spend hours debating whether electoral votes in swing states were not regularly given and/or lawfully certified.
However, an objection can only be upheld by the agreement of both houses of Congress, which is simply not going to happen. As far as I can tell, no objection to an electoral vote has ever been upheld.
A partisan objection would not be. So, the only thing any Republican could achieve here is having to work through their own lunch break, which makes it unlikely that they will try.
So, yes, the election is over, but somebody might decide to ruin Congress’ day when they convene on January 6, at 1:00pm, to formalize the votes.
As they would also be ruining their own, I figure this is pretty karmic.