U.S. election: Here’s what happens until Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are inaugurated

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The American people have voted, and Joe Biden has been projected the winner of the 2020 U.S. presidential election, defeating Donald Trump.

The Associated Press has projected Biden will win at least 290 electoral college votes, with a few states still counting ballots.

However, Biden and vice president-elect Kamala Harris won’t take over the country’s highest office until Jan. 20.

Here’s a breakdown of what will happen in the interim.

December

On Dec. 8 2020, all election disputes at the state level must be resolved.

This means all state recounts and court contests over the results must be completed by Dec. 8.

Less than a week later, on Dec. 14, each of the electors will cast their ballot in the state capitol and in D.C.

In most states, electors are required by law to vote alongside how their respective state voted.

However, sometimes there are what is known as “faithless electors” who vote against how they pledged to.

During the 2016 election, for example, Trump was expected to win 306 electoral votes, but lost two electors.

Similarly, Hillary Clinton was expected to garner 232 votes, but ended up with 227.

While Lebo said it could happen this time around, it’s not likely.

“It’s unlikely to happen by enough that it could swing the election,” Matthew Lebo, political science department chair at Western University said.

“There might be one or two people who try it and get away with it from the state’s perspective, but, you know, we’re really into unlikely scenarios here.”

After the electors cast their votes, they are counted, and the results are sent to various officials including the president of the Senate, who is also the vice-president of the United States — in this case, Mike Pence.

On Jan. 6, both chambers of Congress — the House of Representatives and the Senate — will hold a joint session.

During the joint session, members will count the electoral votes. If one candidate has more than 270, Pence will announce the results.

If neither candidate wins 270, the House of Representatives ultimately decides who is elected.

In this case, though, Biden is projected to win at least 290 votes, far surpassing the threshold.

However, Lebo said votes can be challenged.

He explained that both the Republican-controlled Senate and Democrat-majority House would have to agree in order for any votes to open a challenge.

“So it is unlikely they would agree on any challenges,” he said. “A nd so then all the electoral votes would be accepted and Joe Biden would then be officially the president-elect and ready for inauguration day. “

On to inauguration day

Later that month, on Jan. 20, Biden and Harris will be inaugurated.

This is when the president-elect and vice president-elect are sworn into office.

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Usually, a large ceremony is held in Washington D.C., and it is tradition that all living former presidents and vice-presidents attend.

On inauguration day, the outgoing president — in this case, Trump — welcomes the president-elect and vice-president-elect to the White House.

The ceremony is presided over by the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The president-elect takes the oath of office, and officially becomes the President of the United States.

It’s unclear how exactly the ceremony will look this year amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, or if Trump — who has refused to concede — will be present.

But Lebo said ultimately Trump “doesn’t need to be there.”

“If he wants to sulk in New York or in Mar-a-Lago, he can do that and the ceremony will go on without him.”

Richard Johnston, a professor emeritus of political science at the University of British Columbia echoed Lebo’s remarks, saying it’s not Trump’s decision “whether or not to leave office.”

“The office leaves him,” he told Global News in a previous interview.

“He’ll be a private citizen with no right to be there in the future (and) if he’s obstructive, he’ll have to be escorted from the room.”

Lebo said until inauguration day, each department of the U.S. government will begin the process of transitioning from one administration to the next.

“And that will all be hampered by Donald Trump, you know, refusing to concede,” he said. “And by what’s going on now with sort of loyalty tests about who is who, who’s standing with him and who is abandoning him.”

Overall Lebo said it’s going to be a “very, very messy 70 days.”

Lawsuits

The Trump campaign has filed a handful of lawsuits in several of the key swing states arguing ballots that arrived after Nov. 3 should not be counted, or that Republican poll watchers had been denied access to oversee ballot counting.

The Republican President has alleged, without providing proof, that there has been large-scale voter fraud, which has changed the outcome of the election.

Election officials across the country have maintained, however, that there was no irregularities or voter fraud, and say representatives from both parties had been granted access during the counting process.

Most of the lawsuits have since been shot down.

However, on Monday, the president’s campaign filed another suit in Pennsylvania, claiming mail-in ballots should be disqualified.

The lawsuit comes days after Biden was projected to win the state, and as the Democrat’s lead continues to grow.

By Monday at 5:30 p.m. ET, the president-elect had amassed a 45,475-vote lead over Trump.

In a break from tradition, Trump has refused to concede to Biden, falsely claiming as recently as Saturday that he won the election “BY A LOT.”

On Monday, U.S. Attorney General William Barr authorized federal prosecutors across the U.S. to pursue what he said were “substantial allegations” of voting irregularities before the 2020 presidential election is certified, despite little evidence of fraud.

The move raises the prospect that Trump will use the U.S. Justice Department to try to challenge the outcome of the election.

It gives prosecutors the ability to go around longstanding Justice Department policy that normally would prohibit such overt actions before the election is formally certified.

Biden-Harris transition team at work

Despite the lawsuits, Biden and Harris have wasted no time in assembling their transition team, having launched a website outlining their plans for once they assume office.

Top of the list is assembling a coronavirus task force.

On Monday Biden announced the board will be led by former Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner David Kessler and Yale University public health care expert Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith.

The group has been tasked with developing his administration’s pandemic response — something Biden says he wants to put in motion as soon as he takes office in January.

According to Lebo, it is not unusual for a president-elect to make these kinds of preparations ahead of inauguration day.

“Joe Biden has probably been thinking about cabinet positions for six months,” he said.

— With files from Global News’ Emerald Bensadoun and The Associated Press

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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