States across the United States are rushing to certify their final vote tallies in the presidential election – the first step in officially cementing the victor of the contest.
Media organisations projected Joe Biden as the winner of the election on November 7, but, as part of the Electoral College system, states must certify their final tallies to lock in their electors by December 8.
Those electors, which are proportional to the number of representatives and senators a state has in the US Congress, will cast their vote, in most cases for the candidate that won the most votes in the state, by December 14. Congress will approve those votes on January 6, just two weeks before the January 20 inauguration.
In the US, the election is determined not by the national popular vote, but by the winner of the Electoral College vote. The threshold for victory is 270 Electoral votes.
Biden is currently projected to win 290 Electoral votes. That does not include Georgia, where Biden is leading by more than 13,000 votes. The state is currently conducting an audit and full hand recount. If he maintains his lead, Biden is set to win a total of 306 Electoral votes.
Despite Biden’s commanding advantage, the vote certification process this election cycle has been defined by drama, as Trump continues to refuse to concede and his team launches longshot legal challenges to results in several key battleground states.
Trump and his surrogates have alleged widespread fraud and voting irregularities, but have not provided proof.
Trump has already criticised the hand recount in Georgia, which the state’s Republican secretary of state launched on November 13. The deadline for officials to hand tally about five million votes is the end of the day on Wednesday. The state’s deadline to certify their vote count is Friday.
That deadline loomed as the state reported on Tuesday 2,800 ballots in Fayette County that officials had failed to upload. The newly added votes comprised 1,600 for Trump and 1,100 for Biden.
Georgia officials have said the majority of counties have so far reported no, or only slight, differences from the initial vote count.
In Wisconsin, the Trump campaign announced they are petitioning for a recount in two counties, Milwaukee and Dane, two heavily Democratic counties that the campaign argues “are the locations of the worst irregularities”. Despite Trump’s insistence, no evidence of widespread voting irregularities or fraud has emerged in any state.
One reason for the limited recount request is financial. The state indicated a full recount would cost the Trump campaign $7.9m. Instead, requesting a recount in just two counties will cost $3m, which the campaign said it has transferred to the state.
Wisconsin state law requires its votes to be certified by December 1, but that deadline can be broken if a recount is under way. Last week, the state election commission said it expects a recount to be wrapped up by December 4, at the latest, giving the state time to certify its vote by the December 8 federal deadline.
Initial totals showed Biden leading Trump by about 20,000 votes in the state. Wisconsin has 10 Electoral votes.
Meanwhile, a standoff in Michigan over certifying results in Wayne County, which includes Detroit and is the state’s most populous region, has been resolved.
Two Republican members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers had voted against the two Democratic members in refusing to certify the results. Biden had received about 68 percent of votes in the country, compared with Trump’s about 31 percent.
One of the Republican members, Laura Cox, in a statement, said “enough evidence of irregularities and potential voter fraud was uncovered” to justify opposing certification, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Democrats promptly accused Republicans of playing politics and undermining residents’ voting rights.
The two Republicans switched their position and voted to certify the results on Tuesday, just minutes before the state’s deadline. Michigan has 16 Electoral votes.