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Seldom in our history has a Presidential election been as controversial as the election of 2016. The entire process has been put under a microscope this year, including the Electoral College itself, owing to the difference in the popular and electoral vote-counts this year. In 2000, there was quite a controversy when Al Gore won the popular vote, but lost the Electoral College, and in retrospect, it seems that there was some shenanigans in Florida, a state governed at the time by Jeb Bush, brother of the eventual winner, George W. Bush. The lesson from that election was, “if you want to win, win big.” an idea that Barack Obama took to heart eight and twelve years later.
Next Monday, December 19, will be an important milestone on the road of establishing this new Trump regime into the books of the history of this fine nation. It is interesting to follow the timeline of the actual steps involved in the transfer of power.
After the presidential election, the governor of your state prepares seven Certificates of Ascertainment. “As soon as practicable,” after the election results in your state are certified, the governor sends one of the Certificates of Ascertainment to the Archivist.
Certificates of Ascertainment should be sent to the Archivist no later than the meeting of the electors in December. However, federal law sets no penalty for missing the deadline.
The remaining six Certificates of Ascertainment are held for use at the meeting of the Electors in December.
December 13, 2016
States must make final decisions in any controversies over the appointment of their electors at least six days before the meeting of the Electors. This is so their electoral votes will be presumed valid when presented to Congress.
Decisions by states’ courts are conclusive, if decided under laws enacted before Election Day.
December 19, 2016
The Electors meet in their state and vote for President and Vice President on separate ballots. The electors record their votes on six “Certificates of Vote,” which are paired with the six remaining Certificates of Ascertainment.
The electors sign, seal, and certify six sets of electoral votes. A set of electoral votes consists of one Certificate of Ascertainment and one Certificate of Vote. These are distributed immediately as follows:
* one set to the President of the Senate (the Vice President) for the official count of the electoral votes in January;
* two packages to the Secretary of State in the state where the electors met—one is an archival set that becomes part of the public record of the Secretary of State’s office and the other is a reserve set that is subject to the call of the President of the Senate to replace missing or incomplete electoral votes;
* two packages to the Archivist—one is an archival set that becomes part of the permanent collection at the National Archives and Records Administration and the other is a reserve set that is subject to the call of the President of the Senate to replace missing or incomplete electoral votes; and
* one set to the presiding judge in the district where the Electors met—this is also a reserve set that is subject to the call of the President of the Senate to replace missing or incomplete electoral votes.
December 28, 2016
Electoral votes (the Certificates of Vote) must be received by the President of the Senate and the Archivist no later than nine days after the meeting of the electors. States face no legal penalty for failure to comply.
If votes are lost or delayed, the Archivist may take extraordinary measures to retrieve duplicate originals.
On or Before January 3, 2017
The Archivist and/or representatives from the Office of the Federal Register meet with the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House in late December or early January. This is, in part, a ceremonial occasion. Informal meetings may take place earlier.
January 6, 2017
The Congress meets in joint session to count the electoral votes. Congress may pass a law to change this date.
The Vice President, as President of the Senate, presides over the count and announces the results of the Electoral College vote. The President of the Senate then declares which persons, if any, have been elected President and Vice President of the United States.
If a State submits conflicting sets of electoral votes to Congress, the two Houses acting concurrently may accept or reject the votes. If they do not concur, the votes of the electors certified by the Governor of the State on the Certificate of Ascertainment would be counted in Congress.
If no Presidential candidate wins 270 or more electoral votes, a majority, the 12th Amendment to the Constitution provides for the House of Representatives to decide the Presidential election. If necessary the House would elect the President by majority vote, choosing from the three candidates who received the greatest number of electoral votes. The vote would be taken by state, with each state having one vote.
If no Vice Presidential candidate wins 270 or more electoral votes, a majority, the 12th Amendment provides for the Senate to elect the Vice President. If necessary, the Senate would elect the Vice President by majority vote, choosing from the two candidates who received the greatest number of electoral votes. The vote would be taken by state, with each Senator having one vote.
If any objections to the Electoral College vote are made, they must be submitted in writing and be signed by at least one member of the House and one Senator. If objections are presented, the House and Senate withdraw to their respective chambers to consider their merits under procedures set out in federal law.
January 20, 2017 at Noon—Inauguration Day
The President-elect takes the Oath of Office and becomes the President of the United States.
I believe that with Donald Trump’s election victory, America is in the midst of a “sea change.” The rules that used to apply to the standard politicians who became President in the past, do not have any power here. He can tweet whatever he wants, to whoever he wants, and it doesn’t affect him negatively, like it might for any other politician. Nobody knows how to handle him, it is uncharted territory. If he thinks the price that an aerospace company is charging the United States government is too high, he will simply tweet, “cancel order!” and all hell breaks loose until cooler heads prevail, and everyone realizes that a tweet doesn’t actually REALLY cancel the contract. The press has not figured out how to handle Trump. The old model of “Cling to a politician’s every move until he makes a slight misstep, then swiftly swoop in and destroy him, for the kill.” doesn’t work any more. Eventually, the press will find the silver bullet that will work on Trump, but until they do, we can enjoy his antics, and maybe, just maybe, he will be able to affect some change in this beautiful disaster of a society we enjoy living in.
“Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change,
into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Hark! now I hear them, ding-dong, bell.”
- “The Tempest” by William Shakespeare