S.C. expert tells why Electoral College objections won’t change Biden’s win

Published: Jan. 6, 2021 at 10:28 AM EST
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FLORENCE COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - There will be a huge spotlight on Capitol Hill Wednesday afternoon.

Congress will meet in a joint session to reaffirm the electoral college votes, declaring Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 Presidential Election.

Based on the state’s final voting results, Biden received 306 electoral votes. President Donald Trump received 232 electoral votes.

The joint session on Wednesday is supposed to be a simple formality, which some political experts said, doesn’t typically garner much attention nor take up a lot of time.

But not this year.

The electoral counting has become a bigger issue after some Republicans announced they’ll be protesting the electoral votes, many of them citing concerns about voter fraud.

The news about Congress members objecting to the election results left some viewers with questions about how this process works, so we took your questions to Francis Marion University professor Richard Almeida, the university’s associate professor of political science.

Almeida said the purpose of Wednesday’s joint session is to make the November election voting results official. He said it’s not about changing the outcome of the election.

“The Constitution and the law say the state’s determine who wins their Electoral College votes. All of the states do that by the election held in their state on Election Day. If a state certifies it’s official result of its election by December 8, the state’s determination of who won is official and is the one that will go into tomorrow’s official counting of the electoral college votes,” Almeida said.

Almedia describes what Wednesday will look like during the electoral count.

“The House and the Senate will meet together,” Almedia said. “Vice President Mike Pence will open in alphabetical order the 50 envelopes where each state sent its Electoral College votes. The Congress will count and ultimately approve those votes. They all but have to.”

Almeida said the electoral counting process goes back to the 1880s, which ultimately resulted in the Electoral Count Act being founded.

“As a result of some really disastrous elections in 1876, 1880, 1884, at the end of Reconstruction, where things were especially corrupt in the South were divided and pretty awful and corrupt and the aftermath of the Civil War, after a whole bunch of real shenanigans in those elections, Congress passed the law the Electoral Count Act,” Almeida said. “That law says what the states decide [will be their] Electoral College results will be binding.”

He said the Electoral Count Act also lays out some very narrow exemptions, based on what happened in those three elections in the 1880s, when Congress could legally override the Electoral College votes for a state. Almeida said the process to overturn the election results is not easy.

“That made that reasonably, really difficult to do,” Almeida said. “It would take more than a majority of the House of Representatives and the Senate together deciding to override a state’s Electoral College votes. Any congressman or senator can object to the electoral college votes of the state. It would take a representative and a senator jointly agreeing to do so. When that happens, Congress, by law, has to immediately debate that objection.”

Almeida said that scenario will more than likely happen Wednesday.

“A senator and a representative will object to the Electoral College results of probably six states,” Almeida said. “Each of which will prompt a two-hour debate. After which, there won’t be enough votes to overturn that state’s Electoral College. So it’s going to be a long, drawn-out and totally 100% theatrical endeavor.”

Numerous Republican leaders, including three in South Carolina, have gone on the record, stating they will be objecting the electoral votes in some states, citing concerns about voter fraud.

Almedia projects that despite the objections, nothing will change with the outcome of the 2020 election results.

“Joe Biden won in several states in November that Donald Trump narrowly won in 2016,” Almeida said. “The Republicans are going to probably challenge the results in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, probably Arizona and maybe Nevada. Even though all of those have been extensively litigated in state and federal courts and have not gotten traction. But they have the legal ability to [make an objection] tomorrow and they’re going to. There is no way on God’s green Earth they have enough votes to overturn any of those because the process was deliberately made to be very difficult. But they can and have certainly indicated that they will anyway.”

Almeida added in past elections, a smaller number of Democrats did object to some state’s voting numbers.

He further stated objecting to the Electoral College votes is not typical, and hopes it doesn’t become the “norm” and he’s a bit troubled about Wednesday’s joint session.

“It’s really troubling,” Alemeida said. “Democracy succeeds when people believe in the process even when they don’t win. When that disappears, there’s not enough left to lean on. When people rightly or wrongly lose faith in the process, that’s really troubling. That’s grounds for concerns. I am really disappointed by the fact the evidence-free assertions that have been quickly thrown out of more than 60 courts, state and federal, over the last two and a half months. I feel like our senators and representatives have an obligation to tell the American people these results are disappointing, from the Republican perspective, but they are fair and legitimate.”

The joint session will begin at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

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