The US presidency: key dates on the path from polling day to inauguration

As readers know, we scribes at Point of Order work ceaselessly, nay tirelessly, to bring them important information.  So, for those who wonder about the next steps in the US presidential election, here are some key dates.

The first one is December 9.  States have until this date to settle any disputes of the election results including court challenges and recounts.  From the outset President Donald Trump has refused to accept the result. In fact, late on November 3, polling day,  he claimed victory.

Now he and the Republican Party have launched a basket of legal challenges to contest the result. This has brought a robust rebuttal from Democratic and Republican states whose officials have briskly defended their ballot-counting procedures.

As we know, the Electoral College decides the winner and not the public vote.  This procedure was instituted to ensure states big and small have an equal opportunity to decide the winner.

By December 15, the next important date, each state’s electors have to vote by paper ballot for the president and vice-president.  These are counted and the electors sign Certificates of the Vote.

These are despatched by registered mail to a range of officials including the president of the Senate, the upper house, and have to be delivered by December 24. 

The US Constitution provides for a “president pro tempore” of the Senate, who is the second-highest-ranking official. The vice president presides over the Senate and  the president pro tempore acts in the absence of the VP.

The penultimate key date is January 7. On this day the House and the Senate hold a joint session to count the Electoral College votes. Once one contender reaches 270, the battle is over and a president and vice president are identified.

The final date is January 21, Inaugural Day. This is generally an occasion for public rejoicing, parades and great crowds.  Guests, VIPs, justices of the Supreme Court, senators and House of Representatives gather at the capital to watch the Chief Justice swear in the new office holders.

Naturally, President Trump maintained the crowds at his inauguration were the biggest-ever although photographs of earlier inaugurations seemed to disprove this claim. By convention, outgoing presidents attend the event. Trump won’t confirm his attendance as an outgoing president.

If he misses, he will be in the company of Andrew Johnson who refused to attend Ulysses S Grant’s inauguration in 1829.  In any case, because of the Covid-19 pandemic still surging and affecting  record numbers across the US, a simple swearing-in is expected, with few guests, in the Capitol building.

One thought on “The US presidency: key dates on the path from polling day to inauguration

  1. This contest may well go all the way to the Supreme Court, as it did in 2000. Earlier this week more than 500 affidavits had been filed alleging electoral fraud in key battleground States where the margins are close. Thankfully it is not up to the media to proclaim the winner, although many of them appear confused on this point.


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