Relief. Election Day is over.
Stress. We’re not done yet -- even in those races that if we think we are.
We didn’t know the preliminary results of several races Wednesday morning, but especially the contested presidential battle, when we posted this editorial. Maybe we still don’t know the results as you read this editorial.
READ MORE: RiverTown 2020 election roundup
Regardless, take heart, because U.S. election results are never final at this point. We’ve just gotten used to thinking that they are. Our representative government involves checks and balances, and the voting process is no exception.
Locally, the Pierce County Board of Canvass will certify its returns at 9 a.m. Monday, Nov. 9, in the Courthouse Annex, and the St. Croix County Board of Canvass will do so at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 10, in the Government Center. They must review and potentially correct preliminary results, and only then will local results be official.
Similar actions will play out across the state next week. When a particular contest involves more than one county, then each must certify its portion before the whole vote is “official.”
Next, the states must complete their part, a process that technically takes weeks.
Nationally, the results won’t be “final final” until the Electoral College votes in December and the Senate and House concur.
The 12th and 20th Amendments to the Constitution, the U.S. Code, the various state laws and political party rules govern the Electoral College timeline. Barring court challenges -- and subsequent congressional action potentially necessary to delay the “Safe Harbor” deadline and Electoral College meeting date, for example -- the 2020 presidential election timeline continues well into 2021, according to the Congressional Research Service. The timeline is:
Nov. 4-Dec. 14
States are to count and certify popular vote results according to their respective statutory and procedural requirements. Each governor then must prepare “as soon as practicable” Certificates of Ascertainment of the vote. One copy is forwarded to the Archivist of the United States, while six duplicates must be provided to the electors by the time they meet to vote.
This is the “Safe Harbor” deadline. If results are contested in any state, and if the state, prior to Election Day, enacted procedures to settle controversies or contests over electors and electoral votes, and if these procedures have been applied, and the results have been determined six days before the electors’ meetings, then these results are considered to be conclusive, and will apply in the counting of the electoral votes.
Electoral College delegations meet separately in their respective states and the District of Columbia. The electors vote by paper ballot, casting one ballot for president and one for vice president. The electors count the results and certify them in each state.
The Electoral College certificates must be delivered to designated state and federal offices, including U.S. District Courts.
Congress -- newly sworn in Jan. 3. -- must hold a joint session to count electoral votes and declare the results.
Members may object to any individual state returns as they are announced. Objections must be made in writing by at least one member each of the Senate and House. If an objection meets this requirement, the joint session recesses and the two houses separate, debate the question in their respective chambers for no more than two hours and vote. They then reassemble in a joint session and announce the results.
An objection must be approved by both houses for any contested votes to be excluded.
If one of the presidential tickets receives a majority of 270 or more electoral votes, the vice president announces the results, which “shall be deemed a sufficient declaration.”
The president and vice president are inaugurated.
Democracy is a complicated, slow process. Stand fast, have faith that the process will work and that your elected officials as well as your neighbors know that it's up to each of us to ensure that it does.