01:53 GMT24 January 2021
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    As Congress meets in a joint session on Wednesday to certify the results of the presidential election with Vice President Mike Pence presiding over the session to count the votes, Donald Trump continues to attribute his Democratic rival Joe Biden’s triumph to a massive ‘fraud’.

    Congress is meeting in a joint session on Wednesday to certify the results of the presidential election that took place on 3 November.

    In December, the Electoral College officially elected Joe Biden as the nation’s next president, after state electors gave the Democratic candidate a majority of 306 electoral votes to incumbent President Donald Trump’s 232.

    Now it is up to Congress to tally the votes as submitted by the states. Here is a look at how the procedure is anticipated to play out.

    Joint Session

    Vice President Mike Pence, as president of the Senate, presides over the joint session that is required by the US Constitution to meet and count the electoral votes.

    Mike Pence
    JONATHAN DRAKE
    Mike Pence

    Lawmakers from the House of Representatives and the Senate will assemble in the House chamber at 1 p.m. EST, with Vice President Pence presiding in his role as president of the upper chamber of the United States Congress.

    The states' certified results will be brought into the chamber in two wooden boxes.

    Mike Pence will open the sealed certificates from each state that contain a record of their electoral votes and hand them to tellers appointed from among the House and Senate bipartisan members.

    The results are then read out loud, with the electoral votes presented in alphabetical order of the states, as the tally is recorded and counted. Finally, the presiding officer announces who has won the majority votes for both president and vice president.

    Contingency Plan for Tie Elections

    If two presidential candidates each received a majority of the electoral votes but are tied – something that has not happened since the 1800s - then according to the Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, the House of Representatives would determine which one would be President, with each congressional delegation having one vote.

    In the 1800 election, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr received the same number of electoral votes - exactly 73 – with a divided House of Representatives deadlocked 36 times before it finally picked Thomas Jefferson as the winner.

    Last Chance to Object

    Once a teller has read out the certificate from a state, any member can stand up and object to that particular state’s vote on any grounds.

    The objection should be in writing and signed by a member of the House and a member of the Senate for the presiding officer to agree to hear it.

    In case of an objection, the joint session suspends, requiring the House and Senate to proceed to hold separate sessions to consider it for a period of "not more than two hours", according to the Congressional Research Service.

    Members are granted up to five minutes to speak in favour or against the objection.

    US President Donald J. Trump delivers his first address to a joint session of Congress from the floor of the House of Representatives in Washington, DC, USA, 28 February 2017
    © REUTERS / Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool
    US President Donald J. Trump delivers his first address to a joint session of Congress from the floor of the House of Representatives in Washington, DC, USA, 28 February 2017

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., will preside over the House debate, while according to aides cited by AP, the Democratic response would be led by California Reps. Adam Schiff and Zoe Lofgren, Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin and Colorado Rep. Joe Neguse.

    Then each chamber will vote, with a simple majority required to uphold the objection.

    Failing that, the original electoral votes are counted without changes.

    The last occasion when an objection was considered was in 2005, when Democrats Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio and Sen. Barbara Boxer of California protested Ohio’s electoral votes, decrying voting irregularities.

    The objection was debated by the House of Representatives and the Senate and rejected.

    The Chamber of the House of Representatives is shown empty December 15. Beginning on Dec. 17, 1998.
    © REUTERS / Larry Downing
    The Chamber of the House of Representatives is shown empty December 15. Beginning on Dec. 17, 1998.

    Currently, at least 140 members of the House of Representatives and 12 members of the Senate are expected to object to the count from a spate of crucial battleground states where Donald Trump alleged widespread ‘fraud’ and have demanded an independent commission to conduct a forensic audit.

    Trump has repeatedly attributed his Democratic rival Joe Biden’s victory to massive election rigging and said he will acknowledge defeat until after legal votes are counted and the illegal ones are discounted.

    However, over 60 legal cases filed by the Trump campaign to challenge the election results have been rejected by state and federal courts on procedural grounds.

    Vice President Mike Pence’s role as presiding officer is largely ceremonial, without the power to affect the outcome.

    The winner of the US presidential election will proceed to take the oath of office on 20 January.

    Related:

    Trump to Speak at Rally Near White House on Wednesday as Congress Certifies Election
    Pence Tells Trump He Cannot Block Congressional Certification of Election Results - Report
    'Fake News': Trump Reacts to Report Pence Told Him He Can't Overturn Election Results
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    US House of Representatives, House of Representatives, Mike Pence, US Congress, Congress, US Election 2020
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