US Congress convenes to count Electoral College votes

The new U.S. Congress convened in a joint session on Wednesday to count the Electoral College votes cast in the 2020 presidential election.

It is the final step in certifying Democratic President-elect Joe Biden’s victory over incumbent Republican President Donald Trump. The Electoral College met in December 2020 to vote 306 to 232 in favor of the former vice president.

Wednesday’s session, scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. ET (1800 GMT), was presided over by Vice President and President of the Senate Mike Pence.

Pence will open the states’ sealed certificates in alphabetical order and hand them to one of four “tellers” — typically a Republican and a Democrat from each chamber of Congress, who will take turns to announce the results from each state.

The process will continue uninterrupted until all the votes are announced and counted unless there is a recognized objection, which has to be a written document signed by at least one member of the House and one from the Senate.

A group of House and Senate Republicans have previously announced that they plan to object to electoral votes on Wednesday from several battleground states that Biden won.

After they raise a formal objection, the counting will be halted and lawmakers will go to their own chambers for up to two hours of debate before separately voting on whether to sustain the objection and dismiss the state’s electoral votes. It takes majorities of both the House and the Senate to overturn or reject any electoral votes. 

After the objection is voted on, the joint congressional session will reconvene and continue with the vote counting.  The process is repeated with every recognized objection. The congressional session could easily go into Thursday.

However, analysts say any efforts to be mounted by Republicans to challenge the Electoral College votes won’t succeed as Democrats have a majority in the House and they are expected to unite against any objections to the presidential election results.

A dozen House Republicans have also stated that they will vote to certify Biden’s win. In the Senate, where Republicans have only a slim majority, any challenges are also unlikely to go through, since a number of the party’s senators have made clear that they won’t be part of attempts seeking to throw out electoral votes. -Xinhua

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