U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
 www.archives.gov September 16, 2014 

Previous Questions of the Week

Question:
When does Congress count the electoral votes?

Answer:
By law (3 U.S.C. Sec. 15), the time and day of counting the electoral votes in Congress is set as 1 p.m. on January 6th.

This year, Congress passed Public Law 110-430, which changed the date of the electoral vote count from January 6 to January 8, 2009. The date change is effective only for this presidential election.

Question:
What happens if the President-elect fails to qualify before inauguration?

Answer:
If the President-elect fails to qualify before inauguration, Section 3 of the 20th Amendment states that the Vice President-elect will act as President until such a time as a President has qualified.

The Constitution also directs Congress to determine by law a successive line of service to be called upon in the unlikely occurrence that both the President-elect and Vice President-elect fail to qualify by the beginning of the presidential term.

Accordingly, federal law (3 U.S.C. Sec. 19) states that, in order, the following would be required, if qualified and, for Cabinet secretaries, if having been confirmed by advice and consent of the Senate, to act as President until such a time as a President has qualified:

  • the Speaker of the House of Representatives
  • the President pro tempore of the Senate
  • the Secretary of State
  • the Secretary of the Treasury
  • the Secretary of Defense
  • the Attorney General
  • the Secretary of the Interior
  • the Secretary of Agriculture
  • the Secretary of Commerce
  • the Secretary of Labor
  • the Secretary of Health and Human Services
  • the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
  • the Secretary of Transportation
  • the Secretary of Energy
  • the Secretary of Education, and
  • the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Question:
How can I find the names of electors in my state?

Answer:
After the election results have been made official, each state submits to the Office of the Federal Register a Certificate of Ascertainment, listing the names of all elector nominees for each candidate and indicating the winning candidate, whose electors will represent the state by casting ballots in the Electoral College.

The Office of the Federal Register receives the Certificates of Ascertainment throughout November and into mid-December of the election year. We post them online as we receive and process them.   View the Certificates of Ascertainment.

Each state also maintains this information in the office that handles the election on behalf of the governor, usually in the state Secretary of State's office. You can find contact information for each state Secretary of State at the National Secretaries of State web site.

There is no federal law requiring states to provide contact information for electors.

Question:
Can electoral votes be contested when Congress counts the votes in January?

Answer:
Yes, Federal law states that an objection to a state's electoral votes may be made to the President of the Senate during Congress's counting of electoral votes in January. The objection must be made in writing and signed by at least one Senator and one member of the House of Representatives. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives debate the objection separately. Debate is limited to two hours. After the debate, both the Senate and the House of Representatives rejoin and both must agree to reject the votes.

In January 2005, Ohio's 20 electoral votes were challenged. After debate, the Senate and the House failed to agree to reject the votes. Ohio's 20 electoral votes for President Bush and Vice President Cheney were counted.

Question:
Who verifies if a candidate is qualified to run for President?

Answer:
The Office of the Federal Register at the National Archives and Records Administration administers the Electoral College process, which takes place after the November general election. The Office of the Federal Register does not have the authority to handle issues related to the general election, such as candidate qualifications. People interested in this issue may wish to contact their state election officials or their Congressional Representatives.

Because the process of qualifying for the election and having a candidate's name put on the ballot varies from state to state, you should contact your state's top election officer for more information. In most states, the Secretary of State is the official responsible for oversight of state elections, including the presidential election. Visit the National Secretaries of State web site to locate contact information and web addresses for the Secretary of State from each state and the District of Columbia.

Under federal law an objection to a state's electoral votes may be made to the President of the Senate during Congress's counting of electoral votes in January. The objection must be made in writing and signed by at least one Senator and one member of the House of Representatives. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives debate the objection separately. Debate is limited to two hours. After the debate, both the Senate and the House of Representatives rejoin and both must agree to reject the votes.

Question:
I believe there might be voter registration fraud happening in my area—where should I report my concerns?

Answer:
The Office of the Federal Register at the National Archives and Records Administration administers the Electoral College process, which takes place after the November general election.

The Office of the Federal Register does not have the authority to handle issues related to the general election, such as voter fraud.

Concerns regarding voter fraud should be directed to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Question:
How does the Office of the Federal Register preserve the Certificates?

Answer:
After Congress has met in joint session for the official counting of electoral votes, all Certificates of Ascertainment and Certificates of Vote in OFR's files are combined into one file.... Read more

See also:

Question:
Does my vote count and is my vote for President and Vice President meaningful in the Electoral College system?

Answer:
Yes, within your State your vote has a great deal of significance. Read why your vote is meaningful.

Question:
Where is the Electoral College located?

Answer:
The Electoral College is not a place; it is a process that is part of the original design of the U.S. Constitution. Learn more about the Electoral College.

Question:
What would happen if two candidates tied in a State's popular vote, or there was a dispute as to the winner?

Answer:
A tie is a statistically remote possibility even in smaller States. Read the full answer.

Question:
What happens if a candidate dies or becomes incapacitated?

Answer:
If a candidate dies or becomes incapacitated between the general election and the meeting of electors, under federal law, the electors pledged to the deceased candidate may vote for the candidate of their choice at the meeting of electors. Individual states may pass laws on the subject, but no federal law proscribes how electors must vote when a candidate dies or becomes incapacitated. In 1872, when Horace Greeley passed away between election day and the meeting of electors, the electors who were slated to vote for Greeley voted for various candidates, including Greeley. The votes cast for Greeley were not counted due to a House resolution passed regarding the matter. See the full Electoral College vote counts for President and Vice President in the 1872 election.

As to a candidate who dies or becomes incapacitated between the meeting of electors and the counting of electoral votes in Congress, the Constitution is silent on whether this candidate meets the definition of "President elect" or "Vice President elect." If the candidate with a majority of the electoral votes is considered "President elect," even before the counting of electoral votes in Congress, Section 3 of the 20th Amendment applies. Section 3 of the 20th Amendment states that the Vice President elect will become President if the President elect dies or becomes incapacitated.

If a winning Presidential candidate dies or becomes incapacitated between the counting of electoral votes in Congress and the inauguration, the Vice President elect will become President, according to Section 3 of the 20th Amendment.

Question:
Are my State electors required to vote for a specific candidate?

Answer:
There is no Constitutional provision or Federal law that requires electors to vote according to the results of the popular vote in their States. Some States, however, require electors to cast their votes according to the popular vote. Find out which States bind electors to popular vote results

Question:
I am serving overseas in the U.S. military. How do I cast my vote in this year's Presidential election?

Answer:
U.S. citizens who are members of the Uniformed Services and their family members may cast their vote through the Department of Defense Federal Voting Assistance Program.

Uniformed Services include the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, Merchant Marine, and the commissioned corps of the Public Health Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

For more information, visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program web site.

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