By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — For decades, there has been intense political debate about how Americans elect the President.  It’s done by the Electoral College, which was established in Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution.

That means people vote for Electors in each state who then vote for the President, making Election Day is just one point in a long process.

So, what is the timeline for choosing a President? Good Question.

After Election Day (November 3 this year), Minnesota election officials have one week to count the ballots. This deadline was extended this year due to the pandemic.

After the counts are finished, the counties canvass the results to ensure the vote tally matches with the ballots counts. On November 24, the State Canvassing Board meets to make the results official.

On December 14, 2020 (a date set by law as the Monday after the second Wednesday in December) the electoral college is convened in each state. This is when Electors meet and vote in each state.

In Minnesota, ten Electors (equal to the number of Congressional seats in the state) chosen by the party that won Minnesota cast their votes for President and Vice-President.

“We have a law here in Minnesota that says once you’ve pledged, you can’t change your mind, you can’t go back on it, you can’t vote for someone else,” says Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon.

If a race is close or contested, there could be a recount. That’s something Minnesotans are familiar with after the 2008 Coleman/Franken race, but it would be unprecedented in Minnesota for a Presidential race.

Simon says any challenges, recounts or contests would have to be finished by December 14, when the Electors meet.

“That’s fixed into federal law,” he says. “That must be decided, that must be done.”

On January 3, 2021, the new Congress is sworn in. On January 6, that new Congress meets in a joint session to announce the results of the Electoral College vote.

Generally, that’s a formality, but a Member of Congress can object. According to the Congressional Research Service, “an objection to a state’s electoral vote must be approved by both houses in order for any contested votes to be excluded.”

Simon says extended litigation could change some of these timelines, but it would be difficult to change the deadlines set into law (December 14) or written into the Constitution, like Inauguration Day (January 20, 2021).

“That’s when a President or someone must take office and I don’t see how the courts can work around those fixed deadlines,” he said.

Heather Brown

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