Congress convenes joint session to count electoral votes

January 6, 2021: Congress will convene a joint session on Wednesday to count electoral votes by state and confirm the result of the presidential election.

Prior to taking office on January 20, 2021, President-elect Joe Biden (D) and his team must prepare for the transition between presidential administrations, including selecting senior White House staff and appointees to top government positions.

In 2020, there were 1,472 government positions subject to presidential appointment: 1,118 positions required Senate confirmation and 354 did not. The new administration is also responsible for filling thousands of other positions across the federal government, including in operations and policy. Every weekday, Ballotpedia is tracking potential Cabinet nominees, appointments, and news related to the Biden presidential transition.

Appointments and Nominations

Biden announced White House staff appointments to the offices of the Cabinet Secretary, Political Strategy and Outreach, Public Engagement, and Management and Administration. None of these positions require Senate confirmation.

  • Evan Ryan, cabinet secretary
  • Cristóbal J. Alex, deputy cabinet secretary
  • Emmy Ruiz, director of political strategy and outreach
  • Erin Wilson, deputy director of political strategy and outreach
  • Adrian Saenz, deputy director of the Office of Public Engagement
  • Austin Lin, deputy director of technology
  • David Recordon, director of technology

News

  • Politico reported that Biden is expected to name Jon Finer as deputy national security adviser and Wendy R. Sherman as deputy secretary of state. Both Finer and Sherman worked with former Secretary of State John Kerry.
  • Fourteen Democratic senators sent a letter to Biden encouraging him to select former Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) for U.S. attorney general. HuffPost described the signatories as mostly moderates.
  • Based on a consensus projection made by a pool of five national news outlets—ABC, CNN, FOX, NBC, and The New York Times—Raphael Warnock (D) won the special runoff election for Senate in Georgia. Jon Ossoff (D) leads incumbent Sen. David Perdue (R) in the regular runoff election by 16,000 votes with 98% of precincts reporting. The race is still too close. If Ossoff wins, the Senate will be split 50-50 with Kamala Harris (D) casting any tie-breaking votes as vice president. If Perdue wins, Republicans hold their majority.

Transition in Context: Counting the Electoral Votes

Congress will convene a joint session on Wednesday to count electoral votes by state and confirm the result of the presidential election.

During the session, one member of the U.S. House and one member of the U.S. Senate may submit a written objection after the body reads the vote count from a particular state or the District of Columbia. Once a House member and senator submit an objection, the two chambers of Congress separate to debate for two hours and vote on whether to continue counting the votes in light of the objection. Both chambers must vote by a simple majority to concur with the objection for it to stand, otherwise the objection fails. For more information about the objection process, click here.

If a candidate reaches 270 electoral votes in the count, he is declared as elected president.

At least a dozen Republican senators have said they will object to certain states’ electoral votes. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) was the first senator to announce his objection. CNN also reported that at least 140 House Republicans plan to vote against certification.

As president of the Senate, Vice President Mike Pence (R) will preside over the joint session. The proceedings begin at 1 p.m. ET.

Ballotpedia will be tracking the vote count here as it happens.

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About the author

Emily Aubert

Emily Aubert is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

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