In the US presidential election process, few legal mechanisms take place from the Election Day to Inauguration Day.
State and federal laws play relevant roles in these legal mechanisms, reports the CNN.
US citizens don't get to elect the president directly. They votee for 538 electors, who, according to the system laid out by the US Constitution, will meet in their respective states and vote for President and Vice President once the popular vote totals are completely counted and certified.
These electors are collectively referred to as the Electoral College, and their votes will then be forwarded to the President of the Senate, who will count them in a joint session of Congress after the new year.
Here are the mechanisms that lead to the completion of a US Presidential Election, and what date they will take place following the laest election that saw Democratic Party candicate win the presidency defeating the incumbent President Donald Trump:
3 November – Election Day
US law states that Election Day occurs on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, despite the fact that millions of Americans casted their ballots in the weeks leading up to Election Day on 3 November, either by mail or as an in-person absentee voter.
Votes began to be counted across the country on Election Day.
4 – 23 November: Votes are counted
Mail-in ballots had to be postmarked by 3 November in every US state, but they can be received late and still counted in many states.
They must be received within a day or two of Election Day. But in Washington state, mail-in ballots can be received as late as 23 November 23 - the day before the state certifies its election results.
In the battleground states of North Carolina and Pennsylvania, mail-in votes can be received until 6 November. In Minnesota and Nevada, they can be received until 10 November 10. And in Ohio, they can be received until 13 November.
10 November 10 – 11 December: States certify election results
Each state does it a little bit differently, but starting a week after Election Day, state governments begin to certify their election results.
Those deadlines can be changed in the event of a state recount if there is an extremely close result.
Most of these dates occur in the last two weeks of November and all but California's are mandated to occur by 8 December.
8 December : "Safe harbor" to determine election results and assign electors
Under the Electoral Count Act, this is the date by which states are meant to have counted votes, settled disputes, and determined the winner of their Electoral College votes.
Governors are supposed to create certificates of ascertainment listing the winner of the election and the slate of electors.
In 2000, the US Supreme Court ended a targeted recount in Florida because it could not be completed by this safe harbor date. That recount would not have changed the outcome of the election, but a full statewide recount could have made Al Gore president. This is when it could become very important for Republicans that they control more state legislatures than Democrats, including in most of the contested 2020 battleground states.
14 December: Electoral votes cast
In law this date is the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December. This year it falls on 14 December.
Six days after disputes are supposed to be settled, electors are supposed to meet in their respective states and cast votes for US President.
They certify six sets of votes and send them to Washington.
Many states have laws requiring their electors to support the winner of their state's election and can levy fines against faithless electors who go their own way.
23 December: Electoral votes must arrive in Capitol Hill
The certified electoral votes have nine days to get from their states to Capitol Hill in Wahington.
3 January : New Congress is sworn in
Members of the House and new members of the Senate take the oath of office at noon.
This is the official start of the 117th Congress.
6 January: Electoral votes counted
Members of the House and the Senate all meet in the House chamber. The President of the Senate Vice President Mike Pence, presides over the session and the Electoral votes are read and counted in alphabetical order by two appointees each from the House and Senate.
They then give their tallies to Pence, who announces the results and listens for objections.
If there are objections or if there are, somehow, multiple slates of electors put forward by a state, the House and Senate consider them separately to decide how to count those votes.
There are 538 electoral votes -- one for each congressman and senator plus three for Washington, DC. If no candidate gets 270, the 435 members of the House decide the election. Each state gets a vote. While there are more Democrats in the House, Republicans, as of now, control more state delegations, so it is very possible the House could pick Donald Trump even though there is a Democratic majority.
It requires a majority of state votes to become President. The House has until noon on 20 January to pick the President. If they can't, it would be the vice president or the next person eligible in the line of presidential succession.
29 January: Inauguration Day
A new president takes the oath of office at noon.
If the President-elect dies between Election Day and Inauguration, the vice president-elect takes the oath of office and becomes President.
In a disputed election, if the House has not chosen a President but the Senate has chosen a vice president, the vice president-elect becomes acting president until the House makes a choice.
If there's no president-elect and no vice president-elect, the House appoints a president until one is chosen.