“Litigation has failed. We are not within the margin for a recount. There has been no evidence presented of widespread voter misconduct that would call into question the certification. The appointment of electors and casting of votes is on autopilot basically.”
Despite the ongoing litigation attempting to thwart the electoral process in Pennsylvania, officials are on track to rubber stamp voters’ decision to send President-elect Joe Biden to the White House.
“Pennsylvania conducted a solid election under circumstances we could not have dreamt up,” said Chris Deluzio, Policy Director for the University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy, and Security during a press call this week. “Election officials faced unprecedented challenges this year. “We are nearing the end of all of this.”
Improvements to election security and the transition to paper ballots were key elements to the state’s success, Deluzio said.
So, what’s next?
Certification of Results
After all votes are counted, officials must certify the results.
Every state has its own laws and procedures with regards to certification, said Adav Noti, Senior Director for Trial Litigation and Chief of Staff for the Campaign Legal Center (CLC). CLC is a nonpartisan organization that advances democracy through law at the federal, state, and local levels.
In Pennsylvania, election results are certified by the Secretary of State and the governor. The certification process involves election officials canvassing results by tabulating and verifying the outcome in every county. Officials research provisional ballots to ensure that they are correct and the person hasn’t voted through some other means.
If certification is completed as per state law by the “safe harbor date” of Nov. 23, Noti said, then the results are conclusive and final, and cannot be disputed.
Next up, then, is the electoral college.
What is the Electoral College?
When electing a president, voters are actually casting a ballot for that candidate’s chosen electors.
The US Constitution created a system by which 538 people, or electors, serve as representatives of the people’s vote in each state.
Electors are determined by the number of US senators and representatives each state has. In Pennsylvania, that number is 20.
How are Electors Chosen in Pennsylvania?
State law says each presidential candidate must choose their electors within 30 days of their party’s national convention and submit the names to the Secretary of State.
The US Constitution prohibits electors from being members of Congress or holding federal office.
Who Did Each Candidate Choose to Be His Electors in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania’s 20 Democrats who will serve as electors for Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris:
- Nina Ahmad, former Philadelphia deputy mayor and 2020 Democratic candidate for Auditor General
- Val Arkoosh, Chairwoman of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners
- Cindy Bass, Philadelphia City Council member
- Rick Bloomingdale, Dauphin County, Business Manager for the Laborers District Council of the Metropolitan Area of Philadelphia and Vicinity
- Paige Gebhardt Cognetti, Mayor of Scranton
- Daisy Cruz, of Philadelphia, 32BJ SEIU Mid-Atlantic District Leader
- Kathy Dahlkemper, Erie County executive
- Janet Diaz, Lancaster City Council member
- Virginia McGregor, Deputy National Finance Chair for the Democratic National Committee
- Charles Hadley, of Philadelphia, 2014 Democratic candidate for state House
- Jordan Harris, state House Representative for the 186th District
- Malcolm Kenyatta, state House Representative for the 181st District
- Gerald Lawrence, Chairman of Delaware County Board of Elections
- Clifford Levine, of Allegheny County, attorney
- Nancy Mills, Chairwoman for Pennsylvania Democratic Party
- Marian Moskowitz, Chester County Commissioner
- Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania Attorney General
- Sharif Street, state Senator for District 3
- Connie Williams, former state Senator for District 17
Pennsylvania’s 20 Republicans who would have been appointed electors for Trump and Pence:
- Robert Asher, former state and Montgomery County GOP Chairman
- Bill Bachenberg, owner of Lehigh Valley Sporting Clays
- Lou Barletta, former US Representative for Pennsylvania’s 11th congressional district
- Theodore Christian, former Trump campaign Pennsylvania director
- Chuck Coccodrilli, Pennsylvania Great Frontier PAC board member
- Bernadette Comfort, Vice Chairwoman for Republican Party of Pennsylvania
- Sam DeMarco III, Allegheny County Council member
- Marcela Diaz-Myers, Chairwoman of PA GOP Hispanic Advisory Council
- Josephine Ferro, President of Pennsylvania Federation of Repulican Women
- Robert Gleason, former Chairman for the Republican Party of Pennsylvania
- Ash Khare, former Northwest Caucus State GOP chairman
- Thomas Marino, US Representative for Pennsylvania’s 10th congressional district
- Lisa Patton, Trump campaign Pennsylvania state events director
- Patricia Poprik, Chairwoman of Bucks County Republican Committee
- Andy Reilly, Secretary for Republican Party of Pennsylvania
- Lance Stange, Chairman of Lackawanna County Republican Party
- Lawrence Tabas, Chairman of Republican Party of Pennsylvania
- Christine Toretti, Chairwoman of Pennsylvania Women for Trump
- Calvin Tucker, Trump campaign director of engagement and advancement
- Carolyn Welsh, former Chester County Sheriff
Whose Slate of Electors Gets to Cast Their Votes?
That’s determined by a winner-take-all system in Pennsylvania. When a candidate for president wins the popular vote, that candidate’s slate of electors will be the ones to cast the vote for president.
Can the State Legislature Choose Different Electors?
A few Republicans in key battleground states, including Pennsylvania, earlier this year discussed a scheme to flip their state’s electors as a last ditch effort to keep Trump in the White House. The half-baked plot involved GOP-controlled legislatures dismissing Biden’s popular vote wins in their state and opting to select Trump’s electors instead.
But they can’t do that.
The Electoral Count Act, a 19th century law, empowers state legislatures to step in and appoint electors only in the event of a “failed” election, in which voters have not made a choice for president
Noti said the provision was included if an election couldn’t take place, such as if a widespread natural disaster happened. It could also address an instance when the election results are not certified by the safe harbor date.
But the election took place on Election Day, and Pennsylvania officials are on track to certify results by the safe harbor date.
“We are 15 days out from the election. Litigation has failed. We are not within the margin for a recount. There has been no evidence presented of widespread voter misconduct that would call into question the certification,” Noti said. “The appointment of electors and casting of votes is on autopilot basically.”
Deluzio agreed, saying any pending litigation will not impact the ability of the counties and state to certify results.
“The fact there is a case pending in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court doesn’t affect anything,” Noti said. “The mere existence of a case doesn’t have any legal effect.”
When Will the Electoral College Vote?
Electors will meet in their respective states on Dec. 14 to cast their votes for president, Noti said. While some states have laws requiring electors to cast their vote in line with the popular vote, Pennsylvania does not.
However, Noti said, the candidates each chose their electors carefully and electors usually don’t deviate from the popular vote.
Each elector will vote on their own ballot. Copies of the ballots will be sent to the President of the US Senate (who is also the US Vice President), the state’s Secretary of State, the National Archives and Records Administration, and the presiding judge in the district where the electors meet.
The final step in the process happens on Jan. 6, 2021, when Congress will meet in a special joint session to count the electoral votes.