Key dates for the Electoral College and what they mean

What are the key dates for the workings of the
Electoral College?

November 3 — Election Day

Election Day is November 3. We may or may not
know the winner of the presidential contest on election night, but we
certainly will not have a final tally and certified results until weeks
later. States vary widely in the time they allot for certifying their
election results. Some may give a final certification the week after
Election Day. Others may take over 30 days. And there is the possibility
of recounts and judicial contests of elections which could extend the time to
determine an official winner of a state.

Ballots are passed out to 16 Electors on the Michigan Senate floor for them to cast their formal votes for the president and vice president of the United States in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

December 8 — Safe Harbor

December 14 — The meeting
of the Electors

Two key dates loom in December. On December 14,
presidential electors must have been selected by the states and will meet as a
group in their states to cast electoral votes for president and vice
president. But December 8 is also a significant date, the so-called “safe
harbor” date. The Electoral Count Act sets this date as an important date for states
to make their official selection of electors, as those electoral votes will be
given greater protection from challenge when Congress counts the electoral
votes in January. The Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore assigned great
significance to this date in Bush v. Gore.

January 3 — The convening
of the new Congress

January 6 — Congress
counts the votes

January 20 — Inauguration
Day. The new presidential term begins at noon.

On January 3rd, the new Congress will take office, and on January 6th it will meet to count the electoral votes and declare a president- and vice president-elect. On January 20th at noon, the current presidential term will end and the next one will begin.

This is excerpted from the new fourth edition of After the People Vote, edited by John Fortier, senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center and a member of AEI’s Election Watch team.

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