What happens if the US election is contested?

Max Pepper/CNN
Max Pepper/CNN

Even if the election is messy and contested in court, the country will have a president on Inauguration Day. The Constitution and federal law ensure it.

Posted: Oct 30, 2020 9:16 AM
Updated: Nov 2, 2020 2:16 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Is it possible the election will be up in the air and the United States won’t have a president on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 2021?

Even if the election is messy and contested in court, the country will have a president on Inauguration Day. The Constitution and federal law ensure it.

Here’s what happens after voters go to the polls on Nov. 3: First, states have more than a month to count ballots, but their electoral votes have to be cast on Dec. 14. Courts will be mindful of that in refereeing any disputes. During the 2000 election, the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately ended Florida’s vote recount, saying time had run out before electors were set to meet.

Key Dates Between Vote and Inauguration

  • Nov. 3: Election Day
  • Nov. 4-23: Deadlines vary by state to receive absentee and overseas ballots from voters unable to vote in person.
  • Nov. 5-Dec. 12: Deadlines vary by state to certify election results, including for president and vice president, to determine how state electors will vote.
  • Dec. 14: State electors cast their ballots; the candidate with 270 or more votes wins.
  • Jan. 6: A joint session of Congress convenes, with Vice President Mike Pence presiding, to certify results.
  • Jan. 20: The president and vice president are sworn in.

Settling an Unsettled Election

If the presidential election is not decided when state-chosen electors meet Dec. 14 to cast their electoral votes, the Constitution and federal law outline a procedure to ensure a president and vice president take office.

When that happens, the House of Representatives votes for President. Each state gets one vote, and 26 votes are needed to elect.

At the same time, the Senate votes for Vice President. Each senator gets one vote, and 51 votes are needed to elect.

If a presidential candidate gets the required 26 votes by Jan. 20, 2021, that candidate is elected president.

If a vice-presidential candidate gets the required 51 votes by Jan. 20, 2021, that candidate is elected vice president.

If no presidential candidate has the 26 votes by Jan. 20, 2021, the VP-elect acts as president until president is elected.

At that time, if no VP-elect has been chosen, the Speaker of the House (or president pro tempore of the Senate if the speaker is unable) acts as president until president is elected.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 148387

Reported Deaths: 3769
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto9953104
Hinds9892198
Harrison7045110
Jackson6270119
Rankin5462102
Lee501095
Madison4734106
Forrest380586
Jones354888
Lauderdale3425145
Lafayette321549
Washington3161107
Lamar289250
Oktibbeha244362
Bolivar240984
Lowndes234164
Panola219850
Neshoba2196118
Marshall213850
Leflore204790
Pontotoc199228
Monroe197377
Sunflower191655
Lincoln188765
Warren175357
Tate168051
Union166025
Copiah163040
Pike161658
Yazoo154239
Scott152129
Itawamba151534
Pearl River150867
Coahoma150143
Alcorn149628
Simpson146753
Prentiss144230
Adams141150
Grenada140645
Leake133543
Holmes129961
George124524
Tippah124530
Covington122238
Winston121624
Hancock120239
Wayne117223
Marion115846
Attala112234
Tishomingo108942
Chickasaw107132
Newton104229
Tallahatchie96827
Clay90327
Clarke89353
Jasper82022
Walthall76328
Stone76114
Calhoun73913
Montgomery73625
Carroll72115
Lawrence70814
Noxubee70617
Yalobusha70627
Smith70516
Perry66126
Tunica60619
Greene60022
Claiborne58316
Jefferson Davis56517
Amite53114
Humphreys53119
Benton49117
Quitman4897
Webster43414
Kemper42518
Wilkinson39422
Jefferson34811
Franklin3365
Choctaw3237
Sharkey30917
Issaquena1144
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 242874

Reported Deaths: 3572
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson31944500
Mobile19687361
Madison13065148
Tuscaloosa12983154
Montgomery12286236
Shelby1020377
Baldwin860398
Lee773566
Morgan653850
Calhoun6240119
Marshall621355
Etowah621066
Houston523038
DeKalb481336
Cullman435442
Limestone420645
St. Clair415855
Elmore404564
Lauderdale400454
Walker3634111
Talladega349054
Jackson313423
Colbert309342
Blount288840
Autauga271642
Franklin251033
Coffee242615
Dale231854
Dallas225932
Chilton221938
Russell22143
Covington218534
Escambia197931
Chambers176550
Tallapoosa175791
Pike158314
Clarke158019
Marion137936
Winston132323
Lawrence127336
Pickens122318
Geneva12138
Marengo121024
Bibb117317
Barbour117110
Butler115341
Randolph102021
Cherokee101524
Hale96131
Clay91124
Washington90919
Fayette89816
Henry8526
Lowndes79529
Monroe78711
Cleburne77114
Macon73122
Crenshaw71130
Bullock69419
Conecuh68414
Perry6846
Lamar6718
Wilcox63218
Sumter57722
Greene42418
Choctaw42113
Coosa3414
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