Here’s What Happens During Congress’s Electoral College Vote Count

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Andrew Trunsky Political Reporter
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The final date on the electoral calendar before the presidential inauguration is Jan. 6, when Congress meets in a joint session to count and certify states’ Electoral College votes.

Though Congress meets to do so in nine days, every state has already counted its own electors and certified its results, with 306 votes for President-elect Joe Biden and 232 votes for President Donald Trump. Here’s how the special joint session is expected to play out.

At 1 p.m. on Jan. 6. the House and Senate will convene together, presided over by Vice President Mike Pence, who is also the president of the Senate, according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS). He will open the results submitted by each state and pass them to appointed tellers to read aloud.

Pence’s role is largely ceremonial and the entire process has historically proceeded quickly. However, several Republican lawmakers have said that they will object to the results of the 2020 election, meaning that certification could take longer.

“I will lead an objection to Georgia’s electors on Jan. 6,” tweeted GOP Rep. Jody Hice. “The courts refuse to hear the President’s legal case. We’re going to make sure the people can,” he added, referring to multiple Trump-backed lawsuits that were denied standing by U.S. courts.

He was echoed by Georgia Representative-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene, who tweeted that she “will refuse to certify a fraudulent election” and would also object on Jan. 6.

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 12: U.S. President Donald Trump pumps his fist as he departs on the South Lawn of the White House, on December 12, 2020 in Washington, DC. Trump is traveling to the Army versus Navy Football Game at the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY. (Photo by Al Drago/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump pumps his fist as he departs on the South Lawn of the White House, on December 12, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Al Drago/Getty Images)

However, in order for an objection to be officially considered by Congress, at least one member of the House and Senate must submit one in writing. While it’s unclear if any Republican senators will object, Senator-elect Tommy Tuberville has hinted that he will do so.

If at least one member from each chamber objects, then the House and Senate will separately debate for a maximum of two hours, according to the CRS, with members granted five minutes each to make their respective case. After debate, each chamber will vote, with a simple majority needed for the objection to succeed.

House Speaker Paul Ryan reacts to Vice President Joseph Biden saying the election is over during an objection on the counting of the electoral votes (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Any vote, however, is all but certain to fail. Democrats will begin next Congress with a narrow House majority, and Republican senate leadership has cautioned against members of the caucus objecting since it will force them to either vote to uphold Trump’s baseless accusations of fraud or break against the president, which could hurt them politically. (RELATED: GOP Senators Acknowledge Biden’s Win After Electoral College Vote)

“It’s just not going anywhere,” said Senate Majority Whip John Thune regarding any congressional attempt to overturn the election. “It’s going down like a shot dog.”

Congressional objections have happened as recently as 2005, when Democratic Rep. Stephanie Tubbs and Sen. Barbara Boxer objected to Ohio’s results, which showed a narrow win for former President George W. Bush. Both chambers overwhelmingly rejected their objection when they voted.

Several Democrats also rose to object to Trump’s win in 2017, but did not ultimately submit objections in writing after being shot down by then-Vice President Biden.

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