On Jan. 6 at 1 p.m. Eastern Time, Alaska’s delegation in D.C. – Rep. Don Young, Sen. Dan Sullivan and Sen. Lisa Murkowski – will take part in what could be a hotly contested joint meeting of Congress. On this day, Vice President Mike Pence will oversee both houses of Congress as they gather to count and certify the electoral votes from every state. If one candidate wins a majority of the votes, Pence will declare the winner of the 2020 presidential election.
While typically a formality, this year’s meeting is ripe for controversy with President Trump’s legal team rolling out evidence of voter fraud in multiple swing states.
According to the Electoral Count Act of 1887, any member of Congress can object to a slate of electoral votes submitted by a particular state. In order for a state’s electoral votes to be disputed by Congress, at least one member from both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House must object to the contested votes in writing on Jan. 6. At that point, the joint meeting of Congress would recess for no more than two hours as the separate houses convene independently to vote on whether to reject or accept the contested electoral votes.
The two houses would then reunite to announce how they voted. If both the Senate and House vote to reject the contested electoral votes, then those particular votes would be excluded from the overall count. This scenario is unlikely, however, since it requires approval by both houses, and the House of Representatives is controlled by a Democratic majority.
Central to this dispute is the exact role granted to Pence in deciding which slates of competing electoral votes to accept.
If none of the disputed electoral votes are rejected, Pence, who will oversee the proceedings on Jan. 6, would need to decide what to do with the alternative electoral votes which were submitted for Trump in seven key battleground states – Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. President Donald Trump and his legal team argue that substantial voter fraud in these states has compromised the integrity of the election. They claim that fraudulent victories by Biden in these states should not be rewarded with electoral votes.
Central to this dispute is the exact role and authority granted to Pence in deciding which slates of competing electoral votes to accept or reject in the final tally.
A lawsuit was filed on Dec. 27 in U.S. District Court in Texas by Rep. Louie Gohmert asking the court to clarify that Pence has ultimate authority to decide which slates of competing electoral votes from each state to accept or reject when Congress gathers on Jan. 6.
The lawsuit claims that portions of the 1887 Electoral Count Act that deal with how to resolve disputes between electoral votes are unconstitutional.
“They establish procedures for determining which of two or more competing slates of Presidential Electors for a given state are to be counted in the Electoral College, or how objections to a proffered slate are adjudicated, that violate the Twelfth Amendment,” the case states. It adds that the Electoral Count Act unlawfully “limits or eliminates (the vice president’s) exclusive authority and sole discretion under the 12th Amendment to determine which slates of electors for a state, or neither, may be counted.”
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If, in fact, Pence does have authority to choose which slate of competing electoral votes to accept or reject, his decision could ultimately determine the next president.
If after the electoral votes are counted, however, neither candidate wins a majority of the votes, the task then goes to the House of Representatives to elect the new president. In such a scenario each state, no matter how large, gets one vote. That means Alaska’s vote would be cast by Rep. Don Young.
The U.S. Senate would elect the vice president, with each of the 100 senators casting a vote.
As things currently stand, Biden has 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232. These votes, though, have not been certified by Congress, which is required before a winner is officially declared.
When all the dust settles, the president-elect is scheduled to take his oath of office and be sworn in on Jan. 20.
- A campaign has begun, urging members of Congress to formally object to electoral votes that were cast for Biden in key swing states where election fraud impacted the presidential race. Click here to contact the D.C. delegation from Alaska.