What’s happening in Congress?: The certification of electoral votes explained

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December 25 2021 12:00 am

(WTRF) – What would it take to change the outcome of an election at this late hour? 

7News took those questions to our political expert as Congress meets to certify the results of the Electoral College.

To put it in sports terms, the challenges expected to the results are basically a political Hail Mary.

That’s how 7News Political Expert and Ohio University Eastern Associate Professor of Political Science Kevin Spiker explained what’s happening in Congress. 

Challenges have happened before, but not on this scale. 

So, it brings up another question, what exactly happens when there’s a challenge?

It should be nothing more than simply a formality where quite literally envelopes are opened, votes are announced and those votes are then accepted.

Kevin Spiker, Associate Professor of Political Science, OUE

That’s usually what happens in each presidential election.

Prior to the Presidential election of 2000, most Americans did not even know this occurred.

Kevin Spiker, Associate Professor of Political Science, OUE

Spiker said the 2000 race between George W. Bush and Al Gore was what first brought the concept of challenging electoral votes to the forefront in recent history. 

There were some 20 Democrats who objected to counting Florida’s electoral votes and of course the challenge didn’t work and George W. Bush was sworn in to serve as President.

Kevin Spiker, Associate Professor of Political Science, OUE

So, why didn’t the objection work? 

It’s because those who objected were members of the House of Representatives. 

The process works like this; when the Electoral Votes are read out loud during a joint session of Congress there must be a challenge from a member of the House and the Senate. 

If there is not, the objection does not go any farther.

This year though, there will be members of both chambers who support a challenge.

The House and Senate will then split from their joint session and they will debate the objection for up to two hours for each state. Each chamber will then vote on the objection.

Kevin Spiker, Associate Professor of Political Science, OUE

Spiker explained in this case, the objections are more than likely to be voted down. 

The House of Representatives and Speaker Pelosi do not agree to the objections. The House of Representatives will act very very quickly on these objections. The Senate I think is likely to take more time. Although, Majority Leader McConnell has stated publicly that he does not agree to these objections. He wants to see them overturned.

Kevin Spiker, Associate Professor of Political Science, OUE

This process can happen for each state’s votes. With five states expected to be challenged proceedings will be drawn out.

 Its chances of succeeding and derailing a Biden Presidency are next to nothing. They are nothing.

Kevin Spiker, Associate Professor of Political Science, OUE

It’s highly unlikely to happen, but if the House and Senate would vote to accept the challenge, it would be up to the governor of the state in question to decide.

Once 270 electoral votes are reached, the Vice President announces the winner, who is to become the next President.

The entire process of certifying the Electoral College’s votes is outlined in the 1880 Electoral Count Act, which came as the result of the 1876 election between Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel Tilden.

There were several states, primarily in the South, that submitted competing slates of electors to Congress and there was no way of determining which one was correct, which one was the appropriate one to accept.

Kevin Spiker, Associate Professor of Political Science, OUE

Spiker said even though Wednesday’s events won’t change the outcome of this election, the precedent it could set for future elections likely isn’t good for either party.

It sets up a scenario where I think the losing party is likely to throw up this last minute objection and I don’t think it’s necessarily good for the country.

Kevin Spiker, Associate Professor of Political Science, OUE

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