“These are the times that try men’s souls…”- Thomas Paine, author of Common Sense.
As Americans, we can relate to Thomas Paine’s pain, if you will. We wonder, what will happen in the next days and weeks to our country? What will be the outcome?
Since this is a civics education page, I will summarize the events that are to take place. I cannot speculate on the outcome. Court cases are pending, even now at the 11th hour. However, we need a road map. So, here is a brief outline to follow when Congress convenes on January 6, 2021, with the task of validating the votes that the Electoral College has certified.
If you have been confused, know that I have been as well. The last contested election that required additional steps by Congress happened in 1876. It’s not the usual flow as it would be if the election were undisputed. Still, we need an outline of what legally will take place.
1 p.m. The electoral college votes are officially counted as required by the Twelfth Amendment during a joint meeting of the House and Senate.
If there are objections, there is a procedure to follow:
The objection to a state’s electoral vote must be made in writing by at least one House member and one Senate member.
The joint session of Congress is called to recess to begin debating the objection within their separate chambers. The maximum time allowed for debate is 2 hours.
The House and Senate vote in their respective chambers to accept or reject the objection.
Congress reconvenes in a joint session to announce the results.
Both houses must approve an objection of Congress for any contested electoral votes to be excluded.
Here’s where several things can happen. I’ll do my best to keep it simple.
Some states have two slates of electors- one for each candidate. Suppose the electors only submitted one slate of electors. In that case, an objection can be made contending that this particular slate of electors was not lawfully certified.
A state sends more than one slate of electors. It is yet to be determined which slate of electors should be the official one and who has the authority to name the one slate to be counted. If the state followed its own election laws, it would seem, according to 3 U.S.C 5, that slate would be the one counted.
Still with me? Let’s continue. . .
There are legal issues to be argued, such as:
The interpretation of 3 U.S.C.5 as discussed above
The constitutionality of The Electoral College Act of 1887, i.e., the role of the state Governors, the role of the Vice-President, and the original intent of The Electoral College Act of 1887
What if fewer electoral votes are counted? Here’s another issue to be determined: Should 270 votes still determine victory? Or should it be lowered if some electoral votes are discarded?
Lawsuits and challenges are pending, some within the last few days. Resolution of these cases may alter the proceedings.
In all of this, I look for adherence to the Constitution and the Founders’ original intent.
While all of this seems tedious and difficult, we have processes to address contested elections. These processes serve as a check on charges of illicit activity and government power.
My hope for America is that we will seek, as our Founders did, liberty in law.
This is Common Sense Civics and Citizenship. ??