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ELECTION 2020

 

 The Electoral College: A 2020 Presidential Election Timeline

Every four years, the election process for President and Vice President follows a familiar timeline of events. At the same time, a related series of procedures governing electoral college actions proceeds on a parallel track. This report focuses on the electoral college timeline for the 2020 presidential election. For additional information on the electoral college, see CRS Report RL32611, The Electoral College: How It Works in Contemporary Presidential Elections, by Thomas H. Neale.

The 2020 Nomination and Election Campaign Timeline

In a presidential election year, campaigns for the nation’s highest offices include a number of sequential processes and events that take place over a period that may begin years before election day. Broadly defined, these include the informal campaign of candidate declarations, fundraising, organizing, and intraparty debates (various start times through February of the election year); the formal nomination campaign, in which candidates contest nominating caucuses and primaries (February-July); the national party conventions, where the presidential and vice presidential candidates are nominated (July-August); the general election campaign (August-November), including presidential and vice presidential debates (September-October); and general election day, November 3, 2020.

The 2020 Electoral College Timeline

During the election campaign, a series of events related to electoral college operations proceeds on a parallel timeline, overlapping both the nomination and general election schedules. It includes nomination of candidates for the office of elector; choice of the electors by the voters on election day; ascertainment of results in the states; meetings and votes by electors in their respective states; and reporting results as directed by law. It culminates with the joint session of Congress to count the electoral votes and declare the President and Vice President to be elected. The electoral college timeline is governed by the U.S. Code at 3 U.S.C. §§1-18, the Twelfth and Twentieth Amendments to the Constitution, and state laws and political party rules.

May-August 2020: Elector Candidates Nominated

In each state, political parties and independent candidates that qualify for ballot access nominate a ticket (or slate) of candidates for the office of elector for President and Vice President. The number of elector-candidates nominated by each party or group is equal to the number of the state’s electoral votes. Most candidates are nominated by state party committees or at a state party convention. Electors may not be U.S. Senators, U.S. Representatives, or anyone holding an “Office of Trust or Profit under the United States.” In practice, nominees tend to be a mixture of state and local elected officials, party activists, celebrities, and ordinary citizens.

Faithless Electors: Independent or Bound to Vote for the People’s Choice?

The role of presidential electors has been widely debated. Some observers claim they are free agents, while others maintain they must vote for the candidates to whom they are pledged, although this is not required by the Constitution. In some years, “faithless electors” have voted against their party’s nominees, although they have never influenced a presidential election outcome. Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia have laws or party regulations that require electors to vote for the people’s choice in their state, and in some states faithless electors may be replaced or may be subject to various penalties.

July 6, 2020: Supreme Court Ruling on Faithless Electors, Chiafalo v. Washington

The constitutionality of state measures to prohibit or penalize faithless electors has been debated for many years. On July 6, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled in Chiafalo v. Washington that state laws penalizing or replacing faithless electors are constitutionally valid. For further information and a legal analysis, see CRS Legal Sidebar LSB10515, Supreme Court Clarifies Rules for Electoral College: States May Restrict Faithless Electors, which explains the Court’s decision and reviews its broader implications.

November 3, 2020: General Election Day

General election day for electors for the President and Vice President is set by law (3 U.S.C. §1) as the Tuesday after the first Monday in November in presidential election years. Voters cast a single vote for a joint ticket of their preferred candidates for President and Vice President. When they do so, they are actually voting for the electors committed to support those candidates.

November 4-December 14, 2020: Counting Popular Votes and Filing Certificates of Ascertainment

Following election day, the states are to count and certify popular vote results according to their respective statutory and procedural requirements. When the states have completed their vote counts and ascertained the official results, the U.S. Code (3 U.S.C. §6) requires the state governors to prepare, “as soon as practicable,” documents known as Certificates of Ascertainment of the vote. The certificates must list the names of the electors chosen by the voters and the number of votes received in the popular election results, also the names of all losing candidates for elector, and the number of votes they received. Certificates of Ascertainment, which are often signed by state governors, must carry the seal of the state. One copy is forwarded to the Archivist of the United States (the The Electoral College: A 2020 Presidential Election Timeline

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Archivist), while six duplicates of the Certificate of Ascertainment must be provided to the electors by December 14, the date on which they meet.

December 8, 2020: The “Safe Harbor” Deadline

The U.S. Code (3 U.S.C. §5) provides that if election results are contested in any state, and if the state, prior to election day, has enacted procedures to settle controversies or contests over electors and electoral votes, and if these procedures have been applied, and the results have been determined six days before the electors’ meetings, then these results are considered to be conclusive, and will apply in the counting of the electoral votes. This date, known as the “Safe Harbor” deadline, falls on December 8 in 2020. The governor of any state where there was a contest, and in which the contest was decided according to established state procedures, is required (3 U.S.C. §6) to send a certificate describing the form and manner by which the determination was made to the Archivist as soon as practicable.

December 14, 2020: Electors Vote in Their States

Monday after the second Wednesday in December of presidential election years is set (3 U.S.C. §7) as the date on which the electors meet and vote. In 2020, the meeting is on December 14. Electoral college delegations meet separately in their respective states and the District of Columbia at places designated by their state legislature. The electors vote by paper ballot, casting one ballot for President and one for Vice President. The electors count the results and then sign six certificates, each of which contains two lists, one of which includes the electoral votes for the President, the other, electoral votes for the Vice President, each of which includes the names of persons receiving votes and the number of votes cast for them. These are known as Certificates of the Vote, which the electors are required to sign. They then pair the six Certificates of Ascertainment provided by the state governors with the Certificates of the Vote, and sign, seal, and certify them (3 U.S.C. §§8-10). The six certificates are then distributed by registered mail as follows: (1) one certificate to the President of the U.S. Senate (the Vice President); (2) two certificates to the secretary of state (or equivalent officer) of the state in which the electors met; (3) two certificates to the Archivist; and (4) one certificate to the judge of the U.S. district court of the district in which the electors met (3 U.S.C. §11).

December 23, 2020: Certificates Must Be Delivered to the Designated Officials

Certificates of electoral vote results must be delivered to above mentioned officers by the fourth Wednesday in December, in 2020, by December 23 (3 U.S.C. §12).

Failure to Deliver Certificates by December 23

If the certificates from any state have not been delivered by December 23, 2020, the President of the Senate, or in their absence the Archivist, is required to request the secretary of state or equivalent officer in that state to send one of the copies they hold to the President of the Senate by registered mail (3 U.S.C. §12, 13). The Code also directs them to send a messenger to the judge of the U.S. district court in the state directing the judge to transmit the certificate they hold by “hand ... to the seat of government.”

January 6, 2021: Joint Session of Congress to Count Electoral Votes and Declare Election Results Meets

On January 6, or another date set by law, the Senate and House of Representatives assemble at 1:00 p.m. in a joint session at the Capitol, in the House chamber, to count the electoral votes and declare the results (3 U.S.C. §15). The Vice President presides as President of the Senate. The Vice President opens the certificates and presents them to four tellers, two from each chamber. The tellers read and make a list of the returns. When the votes have been ascertained and counted, the tellers transmit them to the Vice President. If one of the tickets has received a majority of 270 or more electoral votes, the Vice President announces the results, which “shall be deemed a sufficient declaration of the persons, if any, elected President and Vice President.”

Joint Session Challenges to Electoral Vote Returns

While the tellers announce the results, Members may object to the returns from any individual state as they are announced. Objections to individual state returns must be made in writing by at least one Member each of the Senate and House of Representatives. If an objection meets these requirements, the joint session recesses and the two houses separate and debate the question in their respective chambers for a maximum of two hours. The two houses then vote separately to accept or reject the objection. They then reassemble in joint session, and announce the results of their respective votes. An objection to a state’s electoral vote must be approved by both houses in order for any contested votes to be excluded. For additional information, see CRS Report RL32717, Counting Electoral Votes: An Overview of Procedures at the Joint Session, Including Objections by Members of Congress, coordinated by Elizabeth Rybicki and L. Paige Whitaker.

January 20, 2021: Presidential Inauguration

On this date, the President and Vice President are to be inaugurated. The Twentieth Amendment set the date for inaugurations as January 20, beginning in 1937. Since 1981, the ceremony has, with one exception, been held on the West Front of the Capitol. The Vice President takes the oath first, followed at noon by the President.

Legislative Proposals to Extend the Post-Election Electoral College Timeline

Concern has been expressed by some that contested or delayed state popular vote results in the 2020 presidential election might prolong counting and ascertainment of results and encroach on the electoral college timeline. Two bills introduced in the 116th Congress would extend the time available for this process. S. 4517, introduced by Senator Marco Rubio, would be effective for the 2020-2021 election. It would change the Safe Harbor date to January 1, 2021, and the date on which electors vote to January 2. H.R. 8492, introduced by Representative David E. Price, would change the Safe Harbor date and also reschedule the electoral college meetings to the first day after January 1. It would also expedite delivery of certificates of the electoral vote and reschedule the joint session of Congress to count electoral votes to the second day after a revised deadline for election certificate delivery to the Vice President or the Archivist.The Electoral College: A 2020 Presidential Election Timeline

https://crsreports.congress.gov | IF11641 · VERSION 5 · UPDATED

 

 

Thomas H. Neale, Specialist in American National Government

IF11641

Disclaimer

This document was prepared by the Congressional Research Service (CRS). CRS serves as nonpartisan shared staff to congressional committees and Members of Congress. It operates solely at the behest of and under the direction of Congress. Information in a CRS Report should not be relied upon for purposes other than public understanding of information that has been provided by CRS to Members of Congress in connection with CRS’s institutional role. CRS Reports, as a work of the United States Government, are not subject to copyright protection in the United States. Any CRS Report may be reproduced and distributed in its entirety without permission from CRS. However, as a CRS Report may include copyrighted images or material from a third party, you may need to obtain the permission of the copyright holder if you wish to copy or otherwise use copyrighted material.

 

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3 USC 2: Failure to make choice on prescribed day,

Text contains those laws in effect on December 1, 2020

Title 3-THE PRESIDENT, CHAPTER 1-PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS AND VACANCIES

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2. Failure to make choice on prescribed day

Whenever any State has held an election for the purpose of choosing electors, and has failed to make a choice on the day prescribed by law, the electors may be appointed on a subsequent day in such a manner as the legislature of such State may direct.

(June 25, 1948, ch. 644, 62 Stat. 672 .)

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CHAPTER 1—PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS AND VACANCIES

Sec.

1.Time of appointing electors.

2. Failure to make choice on prescribed day.

3.Number of electors.

4.Vacancies in electoral college.

5.Determination of controversy as to appointment of electors.

6.Credentials of electors; transmission to Archivist of the United States and to Congress; public inspection.

7.Meeting and vote of electors.

8.Manner of voting.

9.Certificates of votes for President and Vice President.

10.Sealing and endorsing certificates.

11.Disposition of certificates.

12.Failure of certificates of electors to reach President of Senate or Archivist of the United States; demand on State for certificate.1

13.Same; demand on district judge for certificate.

14.Forfeiture for messenger's neglect of duty.

15.Counting electoral votes in Congress.

16.Same; seats for officers and Members of two Houses in joint meeting.

17.Same; limit of debate in each House.

18.Same; parliamentary procedure at joint meeting.

19.Vacancy in offices of both President and Vice President; officers eligible to act.

20.Resignation or refusal of office.

21.Definitions.

 

Editorial Notes

Amendments

1984Pub. L. 98–497, title I, §107(e)(3), Oct. 19, 1984, 98 Stat. 2292, substituted "Archivist of the United States" for "Administrator of General Services" in items 6 and 12.

1961Pub. L. 87–389, §2(b), Oct. 4, 1961, 75 Stat. 820, added item 21.

1951—Act Oct. 31, 1951, ch. 655, §5, 65 Stat. 711, substituted "Administrator of General Services" for "Secretary of State" in items 6 and 12.

1 So in original. Does not conform to section catchline.

  • 1. Time of appointing electors

The electors of President and Vice President shall be appointed, in each State, on the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November, in every fourth year succeeding every election of a President and Vice President.

(June 25, 1948, ch. 644, 62 Stat. 672.)

Statutory Notes and Related Subsidiaries

Short Title of 2020 Amendment

Pub. L. 116–121, §1, Mar. 3, 2020, 134 Stat. 138, provided that: "This Act [amending provisions set out as a note under section 102 of this title] may be cited as the 'Presidential Transition Enhancement Act of 2019'."

Short Title of 2010 Amendment

Pub. L. 111–283, §1, Oct. 15, 2010, 124 Stat. 3045, provided that: "This Act [enacting provisions set out as a note under section 102 of this title and amending provisions set out as notes under section 102 of this title, section 1101 of Title 5, Government Organization and Employees, and section 435b of Title 50, War and National Defense] may be cited as the 'Pre-Election Presidential Transition Act of 2010'."

Short Title of 1996 Amendment

Pub. L. 104–331, §1(a), Oct. 26, 1996, 110 Stat. 4053, provided that: "This Act [enacting sections 401, 402, 411 to 417, 421, 425, 431, 435, 451 to 456, and 471 of this title and sections 1296, 1413, and 3901 to 3908 of Title 28, Judiciary and Judicial Procedure, amending sections 1346 and 2402 of Title 28, repealing section 1219 of Title 2, The Congress, and enacting provisions set out as notes under section 401 of this title, section 1219 of Title 2, and section 1296 of Title 28] may be cited as the 'Presidential and Executive Office Accountability Act'."

Short Title of 1988 Amendment

Pub. L. 100–398, §1, Aug. 17, 1988, 102 Stat. 985, provided that: "This Act [amending sections 3345, 3348, and 5723 of Title 5, Government Organization and Employees, and enacting and amending provisions set out as notes under section 102 of this title] may be cited as the 'Presidential Transitions Effectiveness Act'."

Constitutional Provisions

Time of choosing electors, see Const. Art. 2, §1, cl. 3.

  • 2. Failure to make choice on prescribed day

Whenever any State has held an election for the purpose of choosing electors, and has failed to make a choice on the day prescribed by law, the electors may be appointed on a subsequent day in such a manner as the legislature of such State may direct.

(June 25, 1948, ch. 644, 62 Stat. 672.)

  • 3. Number of electors

The number of electors shall be equal to the number of Senators and Representatives to which the several States are by law entitled at the time when the President and Vice President to be chosen come into office; except, that where no apportionment of Representatives has been made after any enumeration, at the time of choosing electors, the number of electors shall be according to the then existing apportionment of Senators and Representatives.

(June 25, 1948, ch. 644, 62 Stat. 672.)

  • 4. Vacancies in electoral college

Each State may, by law, provide for the filling of any vacancies which may occur in its college of electors when such college meets to give its electoral vote.

(June 25, 1948, ch. 644, 62 Stat. 673.)

  • 5. Determination of controversy as to appointment of electors

If any State shall have provided, by laws enacted prior to the day fixed for the appointment of the electors, for its final determination of any controversy or contest concerning the appointment of all or any of the electors of such State, by judicial or other methods or procedures, and such determination shall have been made at least six days before the time fixed for the meeting of the electors, such determination made pursuant to such law so existing on said day, and made at least six days prior to said time of meeting of the electors, shall be conclusive, and shall govern in the counting of the electoral votes as provided in the Constitution, and as hereinafter regulated, so far as the ascertainment of the electors appointed by such State is concerned.

(June 25, 1948, ch. 644, 62 Stat. 673.)

  • 6. Credentials of electors; transmission to Archivist of the United States and to Congress; public inspection

It shall be the duty of the executive of each State, as soon as practicable after the conclusion of the appointment of the electors in such State by the final ascertainment, under and in pursuance of the laws of such State providing for such ascertainment, to communicate by registered mail under the seal of the State to the Archivist of the United States a certificate of such ascertainment of the electors appointed, setting forth the names of such electors and the canvass or other ascertainment under the laws of such State of the number of votes given or cast for each person for whose appointment any and all votes have been given or cast; and it shall also thereupon be the duty of the executive of each State to deliver to the electors of such State, on or before the day on which they are required by section 7 of this title to meet, six duplicate-originals of the same certificate under the seal of the State; and if there shall have been any final determination in a State in the manner provided for by law of a controversy or contest concerning the appointment of all or any of the electors of such State, it shall be the duty of the executive of such State, as soon as practicable after such determination, to communicate under the seal of the State to the Archivist of the United States a certificate of such determination in form and manner as the same shall have been made; and the certificate or certificates so received by the Archivist of the United States shall be preserved by him for one year and shall be a part of the public records of his office and shall be open to public inspection; and the Archivist of the United States at the first meeting of Congress thereafter shall transmit to the two Houses of Congress copies in full of each and every such certificate so received at the National Archives and Records Administration.

(June 25, 1948, ch. 644, 62 Stat. 673Oct. 31, 1951, ch. 655, §6, 65 Stat. 711Pub. L. 98–497, title I, §107(e)(1), (2)(A), Oct. 19, 1984, 98 Stat. 2291.)

 

Editorial Notes

Amendments

1984—Pub. L. 98–497 substituted "Archivist of the United States" for "Administrator of General Services" in section catchline and wherever appearing in text and "National Archives and Records Administration" for "General Services Administration".

1951—Act Oct. 31, 1951, substituted "Administrator of General Services" for "Secretary of State" in section catchline and several places in text, and for "Secretary of State of the United States" in one place, and "General Services Administration" for "State Department".

 

Statutory Notes and Related Subsidiaries

Effective Date of 1984 Amendment

Amendment by Pub. L. 98–497 effective Apr. 1, 1985, see section 301 of Pub. L. 98–497, set out as a note under section 2102 of Title 44, Public Printing and Documents.

Termination of Reporting Requirements

For termination, effective May 15, 2000, of provisions of law requiring submittal to Congress of any annual, semiannual, or other regular periodic report listed in House Document No. 103–7 (in which the requirement under this section that the Archivist transmit to Congress copies of certificates of ascertainment is listed as a report on page 179), see section 3003 of Pub. L. 104–66, as amended, set out as a note under section 1113 of Title 31, Money and Finance.

  • 7. Meeting and vote of electors

The electors of President and Vice President of each State shall meet and give their votes on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December next following their appointment at such place in each State as the legislature of such State shall direct.

(June 25, 1948, ch. 644, 62 Stat. 673.)

Constitutional Provisions

Day of voting by electors, see Const. Art. II, §1, cl. 3.

Voting by electors, see Const. Amend. XII.

  • 8. Manner of voting

The electors shall vote for President and Vice President, respectively, in the manner directed by the Constitution.

(June 25, 1948, ch. 644, 62 Stat. 674.)

  • 9. Certificates of votes for President and Vice President

The electors shall make and sign six certificates of all the votes given by them, each of which certificates shall contain two distinct lists, one of the votes for President and the other of the votes for Vice President, and shall annex to each of the certificates one of the lists of the electors which shall have been furnished to them by direction of the executive of the State.

(June 25, 1948, ch. 644, 62 Stat. 674.)

  • 10. Sealing and endorsing certificates

The electors shall seal up the certificates so made by them, and certify upon each that the lists of all the votes of such State given for President, and of all the votes given for Vice President, are contained therein.

(June 25, 1948, ch. 644, 62 Stat. 674.)

  • 11. Disposition of certificates

The electors shall dispose of the certificates so made by them and the lists attached thereto in the following manner:

First. They shall forthwith forward by registered mail one of the same to the President of the Senate at the seat of government.

Second. Two of the same shall be delivered to the secretary of state of the State, one of which shall be held subject to the order of the President of the Senate, the other to be preserved by him for one year and shall be a part of the public records of his office and shall be open to public inspection.

Third. On the day thereafter they shall forward by registered mail two of such certificates and lists to the Archivist of the United States at the seat of government, one of which shall be held subject to the order of the President of the Senate. The other shall be preserved by the Archivist of the United States for one year and shall be a part of the public records of his office and shall be open to public inspection.

Fourth. They shall forthwith cause the other of the certificates and lists to be delivered to the judge of the district in which the electors shall have assembled.

(June 25, 1948, ch. 644, 62 Stat. 674Oct. 31, 1951, ch. 655, §7, 65 Stat. 712Pub. L. 98–497, title I, §107(e)(1), Oct. 19, 1984, 98 Stat. 2291.)

 

Editorial Notes

Amendments

1984—Pub. L. 98–497 substituted "Archivist of the United States" for "Administrator of General Services" two places in par. "Third".

1951—Act Oct. 31, 1951, substituted "Administrator of General Services" for "Secretary of State" two places in par. "Third".

 

Statutory Notes and Related Subsidiaries

Effective Date of 1984 Amendment

Amendment by Pub. L. 98–497 effective Apr. 1, 1985, see section 301 of Pub. L. 98–497, set out as a note under section 2102 of Title 44, Public Printing and Documents.

  • 12. Failure of certificates of electors to reach President of the Senate or Archivist of the United States; demand on State for certificate

When no certificate of vote and list mentioned in sections 9 and 11 of this title from any State shall have been received by the President of the Senate or by the Archivist of the United States by the fourth Wednesday in December, after the meeting of the electors shall have been held, the President of the Senate or, if he be absent from the seat of government, the Archivist of the United States shall request, by the most expeditious method available, the secretary of state of the State to send up the certificate and list lodged with him by the electors of such State; and it shall be his duty upon receipt of such request immediately to transmit same by registered mail to the President of the Senate at the seat of government.

(June 25, 1948, ch. 644, 62 Stat. 674Oct. 31, 1951, ch. 655, §8, 65 Stat. 712Pub. L. 98–497, title I, §107(e)(1), (2)(B), Oct. 19, 1984, 98 Stat. 2291.)

 

Editorial Notes

Amendments

1984—Pub. L. 98–497 substituted "Archivist of the United States" for "Administrator of General Services" in section catchline and two places in text.

1951—Act Oct. 31, 1951, substituted "Administrator of General Services" for "Secretary of State" in section catchline and two places in text.

 

Statutory Notes and Related Subsidiaries

Effective Date of 1984 Amendment

Amendment by Pub. L. 98–497 effective Apr. 1, 1985, see section 301 of Pub. L. 98–497, set out as a note under section 2102 of Title 44, Public Printing and Documents.

  • 13. Same; demand on district judge for certificate

When no certificates of votes from any State shall have been received at the seat of government on the fourth Wednesday in December, after the meeting of the electors shall have been held, the President of the Senate or, if he be absent from the seat of government, the Archivist of the United States shall send a special messenger to the district judge in whose custody one certificate of votes from that State has been lodged, and such judge shall forthwith transmit that list by the hand of such messenger to the seat of government.

(June 25, 1948, ch. 644, 62 Stat. 674Oct. 31, 1951, ch. 655, §9, 65 Stat. 712Pub. L. 98–497, title I, §107(e)(1), Oct. 19, 1984, 98 Stat. 2291.)

 

Editorial Notes

Amendments

1984—Pub. L. 98–497 substituted "Archivist of the United States" for "Administrator of General Services".

1951—Act Oct. 31, 1951, substituted "Administrator of General Services" for "Secretary of State".

 

Statutory Notes and Related Subsidiaries

Effective Date of 1984 Amendment

Amendment by Pub. L. 98–497 effective Apr. 1, 1985, see section 301 of Pub. L. 98–497, set out as a note under section 2102 of Title 44, Public Printing and Documents.

  • 14. Forfeiture for messenger's neglect of duty

Every person who, having been appointed, pursuant to section 13 of this title, to deliver the certificates of the votes of the electors to the President of the Senate, and having accepted such appointment, shall neglect to perform the services required from him, shall forfeit the sum of $1,000.

(June 25, 1948, ch. 644, 62 Stat. 675.)

  • 15. Counting electoral votes in Congress

Congress shall be in session on the sixth day of January succeeding every meeting of the electors. The Senate and House of Representatives shall meet in the Hall of the House of Representatives at the hour of 1 o'clock in the afternoon on that day, and the President of the Senate shall be their presiding officer. Two tellers shall be previously appointed on the part of the Senate and two on the part of the House of Representatives, to whom shall be handed, as they are opened by the President of the Senate, all the certificates and papers purporting to be certificates of the electoral votes, which certificates and papers shall be opened, presented, and acted upon in the alphabetical order of the States, beginning with the letter A; and said tellers, having then read the same in the presence and hearing of the two Houses, shall make a list of the votes as they shall appear from the said certificates; and the votes having been ascertained and counted according to the rules in this subchapter provided, the result of the same shall be delivered to the President of the Senate, who shall thereupon announce the state of the vote, which announcement shall be deemed a sufficient declaration of the persons, if any, elected President and Vice President of the United States, and, together with a list of the votes, be entered on the Journals of the two Houses. Upon such reading of any such certificate or paper, the President of the Senate shall call for objections, if any. Every objection shall be made in writing, and shall state clearly and concisely, and without argument, the ground thereof, and shall be signed by at least one Senator and one Member of the House of Representatives before the same shall be received. When all objections so made to any vote or paper from a State shall have been received and read, the Senate shall thereupon withdraw, and such objections shall be submitted to the Senate for its decision; and the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall, in like manner, submit such objections to the House of Representatives for its decision; and no electoral vote or votes from any State which shall have been regularly given by electors whose appointment has been lawfully certified to according to section 6 of this title from which but one return has been received shall be rejected, but the two Houses concurrently may reject the vote or votes when they agree that such vote or votes have not been so regularly given by electors whose appointment has been so certified. If more than one return or paper purporting to be a return from a State shall have been received by the President of the Senate, those votes, and those only, shall be counted which shall have been regularly given by the electors who are shown by the determination mentioned in section 5 of this title to have been appointed, if the determination in said section provided for shall have been made, or by such successors or substitutes, in case of a vacancy in the board of electors so ascertained, as have been appointed to fill such vacancy in the mode provided by the laws of the State; but in case there shall arise the question which of two or more of such State authorities determining what electors have been appointed, as mentioned in section 5 of this title, is the lawful tribunal of such State, the votes regularly given of those electors, and those only, of such State shall be counted whose title as electors the two Houses, acting separately, shall concurrently decide is supported by the decision of such State so authorized by its law; and in such case of more than one return or paper purporting to be a return from a State, if there shall have been no such determination of the question in the State aforesaid, then those votes, and those only, shall be counted which the two Houses shall concurrently decide were cast by lawful electors appointed in accordance with the laws of the State, unless the two Houses, acting separately, shall concurrently decide such votes not to be the lawful votes of the legally appointed electors of such State. But if the two Houses shall disagree in respect of the counting of such votes, then, and in that case, the votes of the electors whose appointment shall have been certified by the executive of the State, under the seal thereof, shall be counted. When the two Houses have voted, they shall immediately again meet, and the presiding officer shall then announce the decision of the questions submitted. No votes or papers from any other State shall be acted upon until the objections previously made to the votes or papers from any State shall have been finally disposed of.

(June 25, 1948, ch. 644, 62 Stat. 675.)

 

Statutory Notes and Related Subsidiaries

Counting of Electoral Votes

2013Pub. L. 112–228, §1, Dec. 28, 2012, 126 Stat. 1610, provided that: "The meeting of the Senate and House of Representatives to be held in January 2013 pursuant to section 15 of title 3, United States Code, to count the electoral votes for President and Vice President cast by the electors in December 2012 shall be held on January 4, 2013 (rather than on the date specified in the first sentence of that section)."

2009Pub. L. 110–430, §2, Oct. 15, 2008, 122 Stat. 4846, provided that: "The meeting of the Senate and House of Representatives to be held in January 2009 pursuant to section 15 of title 3, United States Code, to count the electoral votes for President and Vice President cast by the electors in December 2008 shall be held on January 8, 2009 (rather than on the date specified in the first sentence of that section)."

1997Pub. L. 104–296, §2, Oct. 11, 1996, 110 Stat. 3558, provided that: "The meeting of the Senate and House of Representatives to be held in January 1997 pursuant to section 15 of title 3, United States Code, to count the electoral votes for President and Vice President cast by the electors in December 1996 shall be held on January 9, 1997 (rather than on the date specified in the first sentence of that section)."

1989Pub. L. 100–646, Nov. 9, 1988, 102 Stat. 3341, provided: "That in carrying out the procedure set forth in section 15 of title, 3, United States Code, for 1989, 'the fourth day of January' shall be substituted for 'the sixth day of January' in the first sentence of such section."

1985Pub. L. 98–456, Oct. 9, 1984, 98 Stat. 1748, provided: "That, in carrying out the procedure set forth in section 15 of title 3, United States Code, for 1985, 'the seventh day of January' shall be substituted for 'the sixth day of January' in the first sentence of such section."

  • 16. Same; seats for officers and Members of two Houses in joint meeting

At such joint meeting of the two Houses seats shall be provided as follows: For the President of the Senate, the Speaker's chair; for the Speaker, immediately upon his left; the Senators, in the body of the Hall upon the right of the presiding officer; for the Representatives, in the body of the Hall not provided for the Senators; for the tellers, Secretary of the Senate, and Clerk of the House of Representatives, at the Clerk's desk; for the other officers of the two Houses, in front of the Clerk's desk and upon each side of the Speaker's platform. Such joint meeting shall not be dissolved until the count of electoral votes shall be completed and the result declared; and no recess shall be taken unless a question shall have arisen in regard to counting any such votes, or otherwise under this subchapter, in which case it shall be competent for either House, acting separately, in the manner hereinbefore provided, to direct a recess of such House not beyond the next calendar day, Sunday excepted, at the hour of 10 o'clock in the forenoon. But if the counting of the electoral votes and the declaration of the result shall not have been completed before the fifth calendar day next after such first meeting of the two Houses, no further or other recess shall be taken by either House.

(June 25, 1948, ch. 644, 62 Stat. 676.)

  • 17. Same; limit of debate in each House

When the two Houses separate to decide upon an objection that may have been made to the counting of any electoral vote or votes from any State, or other question arising in the matter, each Senator and Representative may speak to such objection or question five minutes, and not more than once; but after such debate shall have lasted two hours it shall be the duty of the presiding officer of each House to put the main question without further debate.

(June 25, 1948, ch. 644, 62 Stat. 676.)

  • 18. Same; parliamentary procedure at joint meeting

While the two Houses shall be in meeting as provided in this chapter, the President of the Senate shall have power to preserve order; and no debate shall be allowed and no question shall be put by the presiding officer except to either House on a motion to withdraw.

(June 25, 1948, ch. 644, 62 Stat. 676Sept. 3, 1954, ch. 1263, §3, 68 Stat. 1227.)

 

Editorial Notes

Amendments

1954—Act Sept. 3, 1954, substituted "chapter" for "subchapter".

  • 19. Vacancy in offices of both President and Vice President; officers eligible to act

(a)(1) If, by reason of death, resignation, removal from office, inability, or failure to qualify, there is neither a President nor Vice President to discharge the powers and duties of the office of President, then the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall, upon his resignation as Speaker and as Representative in Congress, act as President.

(2) The same rule shall apply in the case of the death, resignation, removal from office, or inability of an individual acting as President under this subsection.

(b) If, at the time when under subsection (a) of this section a Speaker is to begin the discharge of the powers and duties of the office of President, there is no Speaker, or the Speaker fails to qualify as Acting President, then the President pro tempore of the Senate shall, upon his resignation as President pro tempore and as Senator, act as President.

(c) An individual acting as President under subsection (a) or subsection (b) of this section shall continue to act until the expiration of the then current Presidential term, except that—

(1) if his discharge of the powers and duties of the office is founded in whole or in part on the failure of both the President-elect and the Vice-President-elect to qualify, then he shall act only until a President or Vice President qualifies; and

(2) if his discharge of the powers and duties of the office is founded in whole or in part on the inability of the President or Vice President, then he shall act only until the removal of the disability of one of such individuals.

 

(d)(1) If, by reason of death, resignation, removal from office, inability, or failure to qualify, there is no President pro tempore to act as President under subsection (b) of this section, then the officer of the United States who is highest on the following list, and who is not under disability to discharge the powers and duties of the office of President shall act as President: Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of Defense, Attorney General, Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary of Commerce, Secretary of Labor, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Secretary of Transportation, Secretary of Energy, Secretary of Education, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Secretary of Homeland Security.

(2) An individual acting as President under this subsection shall continue so to do until the expiration of the then current Presidential term, but not after a qualified and prior-entitled individual is able to act, except that the removal of the disability of an individual higher on the list contained in paragraph (1) of this subsection or the ability to qualify on the part of an individual higher on such list shall not terminate his service.

(3) The taking of the oath of office by an individual specified in the list in paragraph (1) of this subsection shall be held to constitute his resignation from the office by virtue of the holding of which he qualifies to act as President.

(e) Subsections (a), (b), and (d) of this section shall apply only to such officers as are eligible to the office of President under the Constitution. Subsection (d) of this section shall apply only to officers appointed, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, prior to the time of the death, resignation, removal from office, inability, or failure to qualify, of the President pro tempore, and only to officers not under impeachment by the House of Representatives at the time the powers and duties of the office of President devolve upon them.

(f) During the period that any individual acts as President under this section, his compensation shall be at the rate then provided by law in the case of the President.

(June 25, 1948, ch. 644, 62 Stat. 677Pub. L. 89–174, §6(a), Sept. 9, 1965, 79 Stat. 669Pub. L. 89–670, §10(a), Oct. 15, 1966, 80 Stat. 948Pub. L. 91–375, §6(b), Aug. 12, 1970, 84 Stat. 775Pub. L. 95–91, title VII, §709(g), Aug. 4, 1977, 91 Stat. 609Pub. L. 96–88, title V, §508(a), Oct. 17, 1979, 93 Stat. 692Pub. L. 100–527, §13(a), Oct. 25, 1988, 102 Stat. 2643Pub. L. 109–177, title V, §503, Mar. 9, 2006, 120 Stat. 247.)

 

Editorial Notes

Amendments

2006—Subsec. (d)(1). Pub. L. 109–177 inserted ", Secretary of Homeland Security" after "Secretary of Veterans Affairs".

1988—Subsec. (d)(1). Pub. L. 100–527 inserted reference to Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

1979—Subsec. (d)(1). Pub. L. 96–88 substituted "Secretary of Health and Human Services" for "Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare" and inserted reference to Secretary of Education.

1977—Subsec. (d)(1). Pub. L. 95–91 inserted reference to Secretary of Energy.

1970—Subsec. (d)(1). Pub. L. 91–375 struck out "Postmaster General," after "Attorney General,".

1966—Subsec. (d)(1). Pub. L. 89–670 inserted reference to Secretary of Transportation.

1965—Subsec. (d)(1). Pub. L. 89–174 inserted reference to Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

 

Statutory Notes and Related Subsidiaries

Effective Date of 1988 Amendment

Amendment by Pub. L. 100–527 effective Mar. 15, 1989, see section 18(a) of Pub. L. 100–527, set out as a Department of Veterans Affairs Act note under section 301 of Title 38, Veterans' Benefits.

Effective Date of 1979 Amendment

Amendment by Pub. L. 96–88 effective May 4, 1980, with specified exceptions, see section 601 of Pub. L. 96–88, set out as an Effective Date note under section 3401 of Title 20, Education.

Effective Date of 1970 Amendment

Amendment by Pub. L. 91–375 effective within 1 year after Aug. 12, 1970, on date established therefor by Board of Governors of United States Postal Service and published by it in Federal Register, see section 16(a), formerly section 15(a) of Pub. L. 91–375, set out as an Effective Date note preceding section 101 of Title 39, Postal Service.

Effective Date of 1966 Amendment

Amendment by Pub. L. 89–670 effective Apr. 1, 1967, as prescribed by President and published in Federal Register, see section 16(a), formerly §15(a), of Pub. L. 89–670, and Ex. Ord. No. 11340, Mar. 30, 1967, 32 F.R. 5453.

Effective Date of 1965 Amendment

Amendment by Pub. L. 89–174 effective upon expiration of first period of sixty calendar days following Sept. 9, 1965 or on earlier date specified by Executive order, see section 11(a) of Pub. L. 89–174 set out as an Effective Date note under section 3531 of Title 42, The Public Health and Welfare.

  • 20. Resignation or refusal of office

The only evidence of a refusal to accept, or of a resignation of the office of President or Vice President, shall be an instrument in writing, declaring the same, and subscribed by the person refusing to accept or resigning, as the case may be, and delivered into the office of the Secretary of State.

(June 25, 1948, ch. 644, 62 Stat. 678.)

 

Statutory Notes and Related Subsidiaries

Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act

For protection and preservation of tape recordings of conversations involving former President Richard M. Nixon, see sections 101 to 106 of Pub. L. 93–526, set out as a note under section 2107 of Title 44, Public Printing and Documents.

  • 21. Definitions

As used in this chapter the term—

(a) "State" includes the District of Columbia.

(b) "executives of each State" includes the Board of Commissioners of the District of Columbia.

(Added Pub. L. 87–389, §2(a), Oct. 4, 1961, 75 Stat. 820.)

 

Executive Documents

Transfer of Functions

Except as otherwise provided in Reorg. Plan No. 3 of 1967, eff. Aug. 11, 1967 (in part), 32 F.R. 11669, 81 Stat. 948, functions of Board of Commissioners of District of Columbia transferred to Commissioner of District of Columbia by section 401 of Reorg. Plan No. 3 of 1967. Office of Commissioner of District of Columbia, as established by Reorg. Plan No. 3 of 1967, abolished as of noon Jan. 2, 1975, by Pub. L. 93–198, title VII, §711, Dec. 24, 1973, 87 Stat. 818, and replaced by office of Mayor of District of Columbia by section 421 of Pub. L. 93–198.

 

 

 

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