From polls to Potus – what happens next in the US election?

By Emma Bowden, PA
·2-min read

With more than two months to go until US president-elect Joe Biden is officially sworn in, the electoral process has only just begun.

Here, the PA news agency looks at how the voting system works and what happens next.

– How does the electoral college work?

When Americans cast their vote, they are voting for a group of party-appointed officials who have pledged to back their presidential candidate, forming the electoral college.

Election 2020 Protests Nevada
Supporters of President Donald Trump protest over the election in Las Vegas (John Locher/AP)

Each state has – roughly speaking – a number of electors comparable to their population and the figure equals the total number of congress members and senators.

There are 538 electors in total, meaning the crucial number to get a majority and enter the White House is 270.

– But then how are the electors decided?

Most states give all their electoral college votes to the candidate who won the popular vote in that state, which is why campaigns usually focus on key swing states.

Nebraska and Maine, however, divvy up the electoral college votes in proportion with the votes the candidate receives.

– So, when will these electors cast their presidential vote?

The deadline for resolving disputes at state level is December 8, with all recounts and contests to be completed by this date.

On December 14, the electors meet in each state and formally cast their ballots for president and vice president.

– Do college officials have to vote for the winning candidate?

ELECTION US
(PA Graphics)

Electors could go against the instructions of the electorate and vote for whichever presidential candidate they prefer – known as a “faithless elector”.

But they have never changed the outcome of an election and the Supreme Court has ruled that states can require electors to abide by their promises.

– What are the final steps in the process?

The House of Representatives and Senate will hold a joint session to count the electoral votes on January 6.

Congress members can object to the votes of individual electors and make the final call on the winners of any states that were unable to resolve their disputes.

If one candidate has received 270 or more electoral votes, the president of the Senate, currently Vice President Mike Pence, announces the results.

The president-elect will then be sworn into office on inauguration day, January 20.

– Does it matter if Donald Trump does not concede?

While a concession speech is a convention, it is not a legal requirement. But no presidential candidate has ever refused to concede defeat once all votes were counted and legal challenges resolved.

Mr Trump has vowed to take legal steps while so-far refusing to concede to president-elect Mr Biden.