The state-selected electors to the Electoral College met in their individual state capitals today to vote. As expected, there were more electors voting for Joe Biden than for Donald Trump. Even though there are still challenges to the election, Biden was again declared to be the president-elect, and he again gave an acceptance speech. No one seems to understand that the election is not truly over until Congress meets to certify the election on January 6, 2021.
When the Congress met in a joint session in January 2017, there were 11 objections made by Democrats in the House of Representatives. Then-outgoing Vice President Joe Biden presided over the session as president of the Senate. Each time an objection was raised, Biden asked if there was a sponsor from the Senate. Each time, the answer was no. Biden declared that the 2016 presidential election was over and gaveled the joint session to a close.
Now it is four years later, and Biden has been handed an apparent victory in the 2020 election. However, the joint-session in 2021 promises to be different than the one in 2016. Donald Trump has not conceded the election, and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Alabama) has already pledged to object to the counting done in the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Nevada. Democrats routinely make objections to Republican presidents, but this time may be a rare occasion for Republicans to object. Fred Lucas at The Heritage Foundation suggested three possible differences besides the objecting party:
The first difference this time is the appearance that “Brooks will have at least two Senate sponsors, as required by law for the objection to be debated. Republican Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Rand Paul of Kentucky indicated they were open to sponsoring the challenges. By the time Congress votes on the certification, the number of House and Senate Republicans ready to challenge the Electoral College count could expand….
The second difference will be how it works. The electors voted in the Electoral College, and the states have until December 23 to submit the results of votes to Congress. Congress is scheduled to meet on January 6 in a joint session. Vice President Mike Pence will preside. Lucas explained the following procedure:
The objections procedure is based on a law passed in 1887. An objection must be declared in writing by a House member and signed by at least one senator for any particular state as an attempt to prevent certification. As was the case in past years, an objection requires sponsorship from both chambers.
If an objection is filed with support form at least one member from each chamber, then the proceedings would stop, and both the House and the Senate would be required to debate the objection for two hours. A Republican-controlled Senate and a Democrat-controlled House would have to agree on disregarding a state.
While this seems highly unlikely now, it does potentially buy time for the Trump campaign legal team to produce more evidence of alleged election fraud, whether that’s actual voter fraud or whether a jurisdiction obeyed the law regarding election administration. The Trump campaign has made challenges on both fronts.
If the House and Senate agree to toss out enough electoral votes to reduce Biden’s tally below the 270-vote threshold needed to win, the presidential election could then potentially be thrown to the House of Representatives for the first time since 1824.
The third difference has to do with Senators. Although House members routinely object, Senators do not usually offer their sponsorship. In fact, this rare occurrence has happened only twice since 1887 when the law was passed. The last time that it happened was in 1969 when Richard Nixon won the election.
As evidence mounts and with possible court wins, there may be numerous Representatives objecting and several Senators objecting. After all the weird events and experiences of 2020, it seems fitting that the 2020 presidential election would end in a new and strange way.