The outcomes of the 2020 elections might be finalized right here

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden will address The Queen in Wilmington, Delaware on November 9, 2020.

Angela Weiss | AFP | Getty Images

Joe Biden is the President-elect of the United States, NBC News forecast on Saturday, but the election results won't be released until January.

When the Americans cast their votes for the president on November 3, they did not vote directly for Biden or incumbent President Donald Trump, but for their state's voters. Members of the electoral college cast their votes for the president on behalf of their states. Congress then meets to count the votes and announce the election results.

In a controversial move, Trump has refused to allow the election and is increasingly looking to question the number of ballots in multiple states, even as tabulation continues.

Here are the key steps in the electoral college process through to inauguration day:

States certify election results

Local election officials tabulate the votes, including any postal ballot papers received after election day in states that allow it. After the local results are verified by local election officials, the governor or other state official approves the nationwide results. The governor then prepares official documents containing the formalized election results and the state's electoral roll.

Each state has its own schedule for confirming election results. Here are important dates in swing states:


Election officials have until November 23rd to finalize the local results. On November 30th, the State Secretary certifies nationwide results.


By November 10, local electoral officials must submit unofficial voting results to the Commonwealth Secretary. November 23rd is the last day local officials submit certified election results.

If there is a difference of 0.5% or less between the winner and the loser, the Commonwealth Secretary must order a recount by November 12th. If at least three voters in each district claim errors or inconsistencies in the count, a recount can also be triggered. Each recount must be completed by November 24th and local electoral officials must submit certified recount results to the Commonwealth Secretary by November 25th.


Local election officials are required to complete the census by November 17 and send the results to the Foreign Minister within 24 hours. Election officials will meet on November 23rd to confirm the election results. Requests for recounts must be submitted by November 25th or within 48 hours of the end of the certification meeting.


District officials have until November 17th to complete local elections. Under Wisconsin law, an "aggrieved" candidate may request a recount if received within 1% of the winner's total vote. The loser can submit an application for recount by 5 p.m. at the latest. on the first business day after the state election commission has received final results from all districts. The Trump campaign has called for a recount in Wisconsin, where NBC News Biden is expected to win.

The Trump campaign would also have to pay the state for the cost of the recount. It could run into millions of dollars.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission must certify nationwide results by December 1st.


Local election officials must certify the county's results and send numbers to the Foreign Minister by November 13th. The Foreign Minister has until November 20 to confirm the nationwide results. The losing candidate can request a recount in Georgia if he has lost an election by less than 0.5% of the total vote. This application can only be submitted to the State Secretary within two working days after confirmation of the election results.

Georgian Foreign Secretary Brad Raffensperger said a recount is expected in the state on Friday as Biden is currently a narrow lead.

North Carolina

On November 13th, the county election officials meet to set the county's numbers. The State Board of Elections will meet on November 24th to approve the statewide results.

December 8th – Last day for states to settle electoral disputes

States must certify election results at least six days before the electoral college meeting – known as the "safe harbor" meeting – to prevent Congress from becoming involved in any potential dispute settlement. This means that all legal challenges to the results of the state elections must be resolved by December 8, 2020.

If states confirm the election results by that deadline, Congress must accept the results as valid.

December 14th – Voters cast their votes

Voters meet in their respective states to cast their votes for President and Vice President on the second Monday after the second Wednesday in December.

In every state except Nebraska and Maine, voters vote on a "winner takes everything" basis, which means that any candidate who wins the state's presidential race receives all of the state's electoral votes.

Voters send certificates of their votes to various officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, who serves as President of the Senate.

December 23rd – President of the Senate receives ballot papers

Pence must receive formal ballot papers no later than nine days after the voters meet.

January 6th – Congress counts votes

The House and Senate will meet for a joint session on January 6th to count the votes. Pence leads the process as President of the Senate and announces the results. The candidate who receives at least 270 votes out of 538 becomes the next president.

Objections to the votes must be submitted in writing and signed by at least one House and one Senate member. If an objection is raised, the two chambers will consider the objection separately.

January 20 – Inauguration Day

The President-Elect and Vice-President are sworn in and officially become President and Vice President of the United States on the day of inauguration.

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