2020 Election SparksCongress

2020 Elections & The Electoral College Vote: Congressional Certification

Posted on in 2020 Election Sparks · Congress

On December 14th, 2020, electors that had been appointed by state legislatures of the 50 states and the district of Columbia met in their respective state capitols to cast their votes for president. In each state, political parties choose their slate of electors. Generally, the parties either nominate slates of potential electors at their state party conventions or they chose them by a vote of the party’s central committee. This happens in each state for each party by whatever rules the state party and (sometimes) the national party have for the process. Political parties often choose individuals for the slate to recognize their service and dedication to that political party. They may be state elected officials, state party leaders, or people in the state who have a personal or political affiliation with their party’s presidential candidate.

When the voters in each state cast votes for the presidential candidate of their choice they are voting to select their sate’s electors. The potential electors’ names may or may not appear on the ballot below the name of the Presidential candidates, depending on election procedures and ballot formats in each State. The winning Presidential candidate’s slate of potential electors are appointed as the State’s electors—except in Nebraska and Maine, which have proportional distribution of the electors. In Nebraska and Maine, the state winner receives two electors and the winner of each congressional district (who may be the same as the overall winner or a different candidate) receives one elector. This system permits Nebraska and Maine to award electors to more than one candidate.

Per the Constitution, both chambers of Congress must meet to count and certify the Electoral College vote, with the Vice President presiding, as the President of the Senate. If a member of the House and a member of the Senate both challenge the electoral vote of a state in writing, then they adjourn to their respective chambers to debate the challenge and have an up or down vote on the state’s electors. In the 2020 election, the electoral votes were going to be challenged in 5 states (Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Georgia) by Republican members of the House and Senate. During the challenge to Arizona, the counting of electoral votes was interrupted by an attack on the Capitol building. A Pro-Trump mob forced their way into the Capitol building; Congress was forced to adjourn, and its members were evacuated. After the Capitol was secured hours later, Congress reconvened to certify the electoral college vote. Only Pennsylvania was challenged after the riots. Both challenges were voted down by the House and Senate.

Instructors, click the link below to download this week’s lecture for use in your classroom. The deck contains a writing prompt and a debate question as well as other assessment questions.

Download the PowerPoint Lecture Spark for “The Electoral College Vote"


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  • Debate: The insurrection was a legitimate way to protest the election outcome.
  • The Electoral College is undemocratic and should be abolished
  • Poll: The protestors in Washington should be fully prosecuted of the law for their actions.  
  • The electoral college should be abolished, and the president should be decided based only on the outcome of the popular vote.         
  • Short Answer: What are the advantages and disadvantages of the Electoral College?

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