US presidential election: How the winner is declared

WASHINGTON – The votes have been cast and the ballots tallied. Despite predictions from news organisations and exit polls by various agencies, the reality is the final results of the US presidential election will not be known until days later.

Here is information on how the winner will be declared.

Who are Americans voting for?

Rather than vote directly for their presidential candidate of choice, Americans actually vote for 538 electors who then elect the president and vice-president.

What happens after votes are tallied?

Once the final tally of in-person and mail-in votes are concluded, all governors in 50 US states will prepare their respective Certificate of Ascertainment, a document listing their electors for the competing candidates.

Copies of the certificate are submitted to the head of the National Archives.

The electors will then gather in their respective states on Dec 14 to cast the votes for president and vice-president.

Under the US system, the winner of each state’s popular vote earns that state’s electoral votes, which are apportioned by population. The candidate who receives a majority of the 538 electoral votes available, or 270, wins the presidency.

After the vote, each state’s electors then prepares Certificates of Vote, which are mailed to the Senate President, the head of the National Archives and state officials.

Who will declare the winner?

Congress will convene on Jan 6, 2021 to count the electoral votes and officially declare the winner of the election, although by this stage, the media would have called the race and the losing candidate would have delivered a concession speech.

The sitting vice-president, in this case Mr Mike Pence, will preside over the count as he is also the Senate president.

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After the Senate certifies the election results, the Conversation said that all Certificates of Ascertainment and Certificates of Vote will be available to the public for perusal for one year at the Office of the Federal Registrar before being transferred to the National Archives as permanent record.

When will the new president and vice-president be inaugurated?

The winner and his running mate are sworn in as president and vice-president at the US Capitol in Washington on Jan 20, 2021.

What happens if the election ends in a tie?

The BBC reported that if both candidates end up with 269 electoral votes each, Congress decides who becomes president.

The House of Representatives – which has 435 members – votes on who becomes president, while the 100-seat Senate decides the vice-president.

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The Republicans currently hold a majority in both the Senate and House.

Sources: Reuters, Voice of America, The Conversation, BBC

For live updates and results, follow our US election live coverage.

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