US Presidential Election Process

UNITED STATES — In the United States, citizens do not directly elect the president.

Instead, states appoint a number of electors equal to the number of representatives they have in Congress to the electoral college, a system that was devised in the 18th century by the founders of the United States.

November 3, 2020 • States must appoint their electors to the electoral college on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November under a federal law passed by Congress in 1845.

December 8, 2020 — While states aren't legally required to certify their results by this date, if they so do, they can avoid Congress getting involved and resolving a potential dispute over which candidate won a particular state's electoral college votes.

December 14, 2020 — On the second Monday after the second Wednesday in December, electors convene in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to formally cast their votes for president and vice president. They then send certificates of their vote to their state's chief election official (in most but not all states, this is the secretary of state), the National Archives, and the current President of the US Senate.

January 6, 2021 at 1 p.m. — The sitting Vice President, acting as the Senate president, presides over a joint session of Congress to read aloud the certificates cast by the electors representing all 50 states and D.C. in alphabetical order to finalize the vote count.

If no members of Congress object to any of the certificates in writing, the Senate president officially certifies the selection of the president-elect and vice president-elect.

January 20, 2021 at noon — The president and vice president are formally inaugurated and sworn into office. The president is sworn in by the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, and the vice president can be sworn in by another government official of their choosing.