There is a Civics drought in America. (Can you tell ??!) Facts, not “feels,” are needed. Who is with me? Let’s start down the long, narrow road to understanding.
First, we are not a direct democracy, so the popular vote and Electoral College tabulations by the media do not make a President. Not one state, as of this writing, has certified its results. Now is an excellent time to discover (maybe for the first time) how our Constitutional Republic works in our current situation.
Just like today, there were differing opinions about how a president should be elected when we were a brand new republic. Our Founders were split on this issue. Some wanted the popular vote to decide the victor. Others thought that as our elected representatives, Congress should decide. The compromise is outlined in Article II, Section 1:
“Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.”
Notice that the words “Electoral College” are not explicitly used. The term began to be used in the early 19th century.
This year, the Electoral College will meet on December 14. The Electoral College always meets on the Monday after the second Wednesday in December.
It gets a little technical here, so stick with me.
Before the Electoral College meets, the states must certify their ballots. This involves all 50 states certifying the vote with the Governor’s signature and the state seal. Each Governor must sign a Certificate of Ascertainment. This document lists the electors’ names and how many votes each presidential candidate on the ballot received. The Governor signs 7 of these Certificates of Ascertainment. The Archivist of the United States receives two copies for perusal. Those copies are then sent to the lawyers in the Office of the Federal Register, where these documents undergo an examination to be sure they meet all legal requirements. Following this, the Certificates of Ascertainment are sent to the U.S. House and the Senate. The other five certificates remain in their respective states for their Electoral College meeting.
States differ on dates for certification. Some states have what is called “canvassing” and certification. Others only have certification. “Canvassing” verifies the validity of the ballots. “Certification” formalizes the results. Some states use these terms interchangeably. You can find your state’s procedures by doing a search with words like “election results certification date 2020.”
Here’s the thing: In a contested election (like 2020), a winner is not official until the Electoral College votes, and the Congress officially counts the electoral votes. The victor must have a majority of the electoral votes, or 270. If neither candidate receives a majority, the House of Representatives chooses the next President. Each state gets one vote. Why mention this scenario? Well, it’s the 2020 election. The election is still in process. Astute civics students are aware of the possibilities in the unlikely event that they occur.
Now you have a road map for what is going on and when you will know with finality, the election results. Buckle up for the ride!
This is Common Sense Civics and Citizenship. ??