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Political expert weighs in on ‘what’s next?’ after election votes are counted

Published: Nov. 5, 2020 at 5:46 PM EST
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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - Election day is over, and votes are still being counted. Many may be wondering now - what happens next?

“The case is that many of the votes this year were both early votes and absentee ballots. That means there are a lot of votes left over. Another part of the story is in the United States election law is not federal law; it is state law, and so state laws are different in terms of when the absentee ballots must be turned in, in order to be counted,” said political scientist Dr. Karen Hult from Virginia Tech.

As for what happens next - that’s still up in the air.

“We still don’t have a final electoral college count,” said Dr. Hult.

Hult says there are several things that could happen once all votes are counted.

“There is a very small chance, but it could be the case that there is a tie, 269 to 269 (electoral college votes). Well, if that happens then the choice is not the voters'; it goes to the US Congress,” said Dr. Hult.

Until or if that happens, states have until December 14 to certify votes are final.

“So at that point, then it begins to look that we have a clear notion of who the president-elect is going to be. But even then, those electoral college votes don’t go to Congress until after the first of the year. And then Congress has to certify them and then for sure we have an absolute legal national president-elect,” said Dr. Hult.

The president-elect is not officially the President of the United States until he is inaugurated January 20, 2021.

“And so what the president-elect is formally then is the incoming president, but not yet have the power,” said Dr. Hult.

Hult said it isn’t uncommon to not know who the president will be election night - it’s happened before.

“We’ve had transitions in presidency throughout US history, some have gone well, some have gone less well. I think right now, the system is set up as well as it can be in terms of preparation on both sides and the people in government and outside of government trying to take it as seriously as they can,” said Dr. Hult.

And political scientists said the best thing we can do for now is wait.

“All of that means that it could be a long time and a fair amount of patience for people to say let’s wait and make sure we have the ballot counted,” said Dr. Hult.

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