States have certified the results. The nation is past the safe harbor deadline, and the 538 electoral votes that officially result in one candidate winning the presidency have been cast in all 50 states and Washington, DC. [See the key dates passed in December.]
Still, the American presidential election process requires key actions in January. It all leads up to the conclusion of the 2020 presidential election on January 20, 2021, when the next president of the United States is inaugurated.
Key dates are 1) The U.S. Archivist delivering Electoral College results to Congress; 2) Congress counting the electoral votes; and, 3) Inauguration Day.
January 3, 2021: The Archivist delivers electoral results to Congress.
The Archivist of the United States must officially transmit the results of the Electoral College to Congress. Each state’s electoral votes were transmitted to Washington, DC on December 15, following the meeting of the Electoral College electors on December 14.
The Archivist must transmit the electoral votes to Congress after the 117th Congress is sworn in on January 3, 2021, as determined by the U.S. Code. The electoral votes will go to the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of Representatives. The transmission process ensures that Congress has received official results and may prepare to tally electoral certificates.
January 6, 2021: Congress counts the electoral votes.
Congress meets at 1 p.m.ET in a joint session of the House of Representatives and the Senate to count the electoral votes. Vice President Mike Pence, serving in his role as President of the Senate, presides over the counting of electoral votes and to announce the results.
The votes from each state and Washington, DC are counted in alphabetical order. The process is complete after Wyoming’s electoral votes are counted.
Challenges to the count are possible. If a member of the House of Representatives or the Senate wishes to dispute the results of the count, they must submit a formal note in writing that is signed by at least one member from each chamber of Congress.
If a written objection is made, the House of Representatives and the Senate will withdraw to their respective chambers and discuss the merits of the objection, in accordance with federal law. The chambers have two hours to consider objections, and no other electoral votes may be counted in the interim. For an objection to be sustained, both the House of Representatives and the Senate must agree to the objection with a simple majority vote. If that vote is unsuccessful, the electoral votes before the joint session are counted and Congress moves to the next state’s electoral votes for counting.
The contested election procedures date back to 1877.
January 20, 2021: Inauguration Day
At 12 pm ET, President-elect Joe Biden takes the constitutional Oath of Office. The oath is typically administered by the Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts. After the President is sworn in, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will take her Oath of Office. This event formally concludes the 2020 presidential election.