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How Congress Counts Electoral Votes and Answers Challenges

The Electoral College chose Joe Biden – now Congress has to count the votes and make a decision.

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The Electoral College has chosen former Vice President Joe Biden as winner of the presidential election. Now, Congress has to certify the results. Most of the time, this is just a formality. However, there’s a good chance the process will be challenged this time, so the proceedings will probably go differently this time.

When Congress Meets

Federal law requires Congress to meet on Jan. 6 to unseal certificates from each state containing records of their electoral votes. As president of the Senate, Vice President Mike Pence oversee the session and is responsible for declaring the winner of the race.

If the electoral votes are tied, the House of Representatives decides who will become the next president. Each congressional delegation from each state has one vote. However, this has not happened since the 1800s.

When the House of Representatives and the Senate meet to count the votes, the vice president presents the certificates from each state by alphabetical order. The “tellers” from each chamber read each of the votes out loud. Then, they record and count the votes and the presiding officer announces the winner.

What Happens When There Is an Objection?

After a teller reads a certificate from a particular state, any member of Congress can stand up and object to that state’s vote. This means a senator or representative can disagree with the results and explain why. But the objection has to be in writing and signed by at least one member of both the House and the Senate. If an objection is recognized, the House and the Senate separate to decide whether to keep the electoral votes or discard them.

Some Republican members of both the House and the Senate have already said they plan to object to some of the certifications on Jan. 6. But Biden won 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232. It is very unlikely that any of these challenges will be successful, or that enough of the votes could be discarded to make a difference. The session will be the last chance for Republicans to officially object to the outcome of the election.

Race Relations & Media Affairs Correspondent at and A self-confessed news and political junkie, Jeff’s writing has been featured in Small Business Trends, Business2Community, and The Huffington Post. Born in Southern California and having experienced the 1992 L.A. Riots up close and personal, Jeff’s insights are informed by his experiences as a black man and a conservative.

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