We've sketched out the legal mechanisms that lead from Election Day to Inauguration Day.
Here's a timeline of what happens after Election Day:
- Nov. 3: While many millions of Americans cast their ballots in the weeks leading up to Election Day, either by mail or as an in-person absentee voter, US law says Election Day occurs on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Votes were counted across the country on Election Day.
- Nov. 4 — 23: Mail-in ballots had to be postmarked by Nov. 3 in every US state, but they can be received late and still counted in many states.
- Nov. 10 – Dec. 11: States certify election results.
- Dec. 8: Under the Electoral Count Act, this is the date by which states are meant to have counted votes, settled disputes, and determined the winner of their electoral college votes. Governors are supposed to create certificates of ascertainment listing the winner of the election and the slate of electors.
- Dec. 14: Electoral votes are cast. In law this date is the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December. This year it falls on Dec. 14.
- Dec. 23: The electoral votes must arrive in Washington. The certified electoral votes have nine days to get from their states to Capitol Hill.
- Jan. 3: Members of the House and new members of the Senate take the oath of office at noon. This is the official start of the 117th Congress.
- Jan. 6: Members of the House and the Senate all meet in the House chamber. The President of the Senate (that’s Vice President Mike Pence) presides over the session and the Electoral votes are read and counted in alphabetical order by two appointees each from the House and Senate. They then give their tallies to Pence, who announces the results and listens for objections. There are 538 electoral votes — one for each congressman and senator plus three for Washington, DC. If no candidate gets 270, the 435 members of the House decide the election. The House has until noon on January 20 to pick the President. If they can't, it would be the vice president or the next person eligible in the line of presidential succession.
- Jan. 20: A new president takes the oath of office at noon on Inauguration Day.