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Congress Certifies Electoral Votes Amid Protests by Democrats

by Countable | 3.20.17

Today the ballots of Electoral College voters were certified and tallied before a joint session of Congress overseen by VIce President Joe Biden, and the official winner of the 2016 presidential election was declared. While the count ultimately confirmed that President-elect Donald Trump won the election, the process does allow for members of Congress to object to individual electoral votes which added some intrigue to an otherwise straightforward process.

What happens in the joint session?

Congress convenes in the House chamber and the vice president presides over the joint session. The electoral ballots are delivered (this time in mahogany boxes), unsealed, and read. When the ballots are read, the vice president asks if there are any objections, and if any are raised by both a representative and a senator that starts a review process we’ll describe below. Once all the votes are read and counted, the final tally is announced and the next president and vice president are officially announced.

Why is the vice president involved?

The vice president is also the president of the Senate and with that comes the responsibility of overseeing its formal ceremonies, like the swearing in of new senators or sitting next to the Speaker of the House during the State of the Union Address. Supervising the electoral vote count has in the past put sitting vice presidents in an awkward position, like when Al Gore had to declare his rival for the presidency, then-Texas Governor George W. Bush, the winner of the 2000 presidential election.

How do members object to electoral votes?

When one or more electoral votes from a given state (or the District of Columbia) are read, at least one senator and one representative have to raise an objection in writing. They can raise objections over whether an electoral vote was legally certified, or whether the vote was not "regularly given" by the elector.

If a representative and senator both object, the joint session is suspended and the House and Senate debate the objections separately before casting votes on whether to affirm or reject the objection. Both chambers would have to vote to discount the electoral vote, otherwise it would be counted.

The last time an electoral vote was the subject of an objection that caused the House and Senate to consider its legitimacy was 1969, when a "faithless elector" from North Carolina voted for George Wallace for president when they had been expected to vote for Richard Nixon. Because the faithless elector came from a state that didn’t bind its electors to the winner of the state’s popular vote, the objection wasn’t approved and the vote was counted.

What happened during today’s joint session?

Several House Democrats had said that they planned to contest electoral votes during the joint session, and they followed through with that promise. Electoral votes from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming were challenged by Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Maxine Waters (D-CA), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), and Jim McGovern (D-MA).

Despite their protests, no senators were willing to second their objections, so as a result Congress never had to debate whether or not to discard any electoral votes. The final tally was the same as the results of the Electoral College vote on December 19: Trump-304, Hillary Clinton-227, Colin Powell-3, Ron Paul-1, Sen. Bernie Sanders-1, Gov. John Kasich-1, and Faith Spotted Eagle-1.

— Eric Revell

(Photo Credit: Flickr user US Capitol / Public Domain)

Countable

Written by Countable

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(139)
  • Nkosis06
    01/06/2017
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    A sad day for America and a disastrous day for minorities. We will remember this day the way we remember the Emmet Till lynching. Nothing good for us will come out of a Trump presidency.

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  • Megan
    01/06/2017
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    It's time to get rid of the Electoral College. When a candidate is leading the popular vote by almost 3 million and is not the elected candidate something is wrong.

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  • Gretchen
    01/07/2017
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    We will resist all the way. Abolish the Electoral College. I can't believe not one senator would object!

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  • Dick
    01/06/2017
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    It is so typical of the republican scum in this country to cry foul when dems try to exercise due process. Woe to our once great country now that the disenfranchised have bought the snake-oil from film-flam Donald. Not my president. RESIST!

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  • Sharon
    01/06/2017
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    So disappointed in this process. Our Democracy has been hijacked and no one cares.

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  • Daryl
    01/07/2017
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    Any person who cares more about the outcome of a TV show than about the security of our great nation is not a patriot and does not deserve to be president. Any person who refuses to be transparent with respect to his tax returns does not deserve to be president. Any person who favors foreign entities and hackers over United States Intelligence officers does not deserve to be president. Any person who has so many business conflicts of interests and debts that his ability to serve in the best interests of our nation has been compromised does not deserve to be president. Any election as muddied as this one was by foreign interference, fake news, and outrageous propaganda should be thoroughly investigated. And the electoral college, if it remains, needs to stop being a rubber stamp and start functioning in the thoughtful manner contemplated by its creators.

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  • BSweetNow
    01/06/2017
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    Our president elect has an enormous financial obligation to Russia. Soon his problems will become our country's problems.

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  • Anna
    01/06/2017
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    There were so many things wrong with the election. How could you approved this without objections? At the very least many of electors were not even valid electors! I'm very disappointed. You will see the repercussions in the next election.

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  • Aiya
    01/06/2017
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    I expect my reps to stand in opposition. I'm not happy that you didn't stand up against this! Not ok.

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  • Loren
    01/06/2017
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    We must do everything in our power to block the Republican controlled legislative and executive branches at every step of the way. My zip is 93117 and I fully support your using the playbook set forth by Republicans as a pain in the ass roadblock during Obama's presidency. Get your foot up the elephant's ass and you'll have my support all the way.

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  • Debbie
    01/06/2017
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    We should never have allowed this to happen. GOP is obstructionist and will not listen to anyone! God save our country!

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  • lkisaid
    01/06/2017
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    Pretending to be about fighting corruption and then displaying a blatant disregard for civility, dignity, human rights, and common decency (effectively showcasing the height of total corruption, complete moral decay, and debauchery), is the only game this #Drumpf knows how to play. This man is utter filth, a disgusting and despicable human, and I will resist every vile and hateful thing he says or does, regardless of whatever useless title he's purchased for his own defilement. This election is outright illegal and totally illegitimate. #NeverDrumpf #ResistanceIsFertile

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  • Barbara
    01/06/2017
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    The electoral college must be dismantled

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  • Denise
    01/06/2017
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    The lack of contention does NOT normalize this demagogue, it just demonstrates the complicity of congress, the need for term limits and the abolishment of the Electoral College System!

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  • Manuel
    01/06/2017
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    I am writing to ask you to submit written objections to any electoral votes cast for Donald Trump when Congress convenes tomorrow. This election was rife with irregularities and likely illegalities. At this point, it appears to have been conclusively demonstrated that Donald Trump stole this election, with the help of Russia. This likely constitutes treason on his part. Even if it does not, this is a clear violation of our democratic process. Moreover, despite that at least 40 of the electors requested a classified briefing on the extent of Russian interference with this election, not a single elector was provided with one. Accordingly, they did not have the information they needed to make an informed decision, so their votes could not be “regularly cast.” In the states where procedural irregularities occurred (NC, OH, FL, and perhaps several others), at least one of the electors was not “lawfully certified,” as federal law requires, in that the elector was not listed on the Certificate of Ascertainment filed with the National Archivist. Further investigation reveals that a number of electors who cast their votes for Trump did so, despite the fact that they were not lawfully certified by their own states’ laws. As you know, 3 U.S.C. § 15 provides that upon the reading of the electoral votes: the President of the Senate shall call for objections, if any. Every objection shall be made in writing, and shall state clearly and concisely, and without argument, the ground thereof, and shall be signed by at least one Senator and one Member of the House of Representatives before the same shall be received. For all of the reasons stated above, I implore you to file an objection to any electoral votes cast for Donald Trump when the Congress convenes on January 6. When the respective bodies meet, please use your five minutes to make an impassioned plea that all members of the Congress vote for the popular vote winner in this election, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and the likely electoral winner (had Russian interference and other issues, such as voter suppression, occurred), for President of the United States. Please. Our national security and the future of our democracy are at risk!

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  • Dan
    01/06/2017
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    As over 50 electors were not eligible per the EC rules, there needs to be some sort of investigation

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  • Emmanuel
    01/06/2017
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    We just allowed the Yeltsin of America to take over our country. Shame on our elected officials for selling out the American people to Russian oligarchs.

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  • Gregory
    01/06/2017
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    Boo hoo to all you DNC crybabies we hated your last president but we didn't try all the dirty tricks you're pulling out of your rear now. I'll tell you what you told us. GIVE HIM A CHANCE!!!

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  • Jeremiah
    01/06/2017
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    This is the second time in just the last 16 years that the votes of the majority of Americans were not heard, and the Electoral College awarded the office the the candidate with less votes. It is time we stop giving ignorance a megaphone, and the electoral colleges adjustment for equal voting value is the first step. That being said, fear not majority of America. The President is just one man, and if we all act on a local level to make this country a better one for our children then we win. 300 million to one odds we win

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  • Lomeli
    01/07/2017
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    I would like to politely ask you your reasoning in not challenging/seconding during the electoral recount? More over, why there is not or hasn't been a full press be they entire Dem party to abolish the electoral college in the first place? It does not make any sense that we do not follow the popular vote AND that voting is not all November long! This is maybe a flawed comparison, but hear me out: if every American tax paying citizen has from January - April to submit their income taxes why then do we traditionally only vote within one workday? Horse and buggy be damned. sincerely, concerned citizen and frightened Latino father.

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