National Archives News

Federal Register Prepares for Electoral College Duties

By Victoria Macchi | National Archives News

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Certificate of Ascertainment (appointment of electors) signed by Josiah Bartlett, President (Governor) of the State of New Hampshire, who certified that he, John Pickering, Benjamin Bellows, Ebenezer Thompson, Jonathan Freeman, and John Gilman were duly appointed Electors for President and Vice President in the 1792 Presidential election.

WASHINGTON, November 3, 2020—The National Archives and Records Administration plays an important role in the Electoral College process during Presidential elections.

The Archivist of the United States is required by law to perform certain functions relating to the Electoral College. The Office of the Federal Register (OFR) is the entity within the National Archives that, on behalf of the Archivist of the United States, coordinates certain functions of the Electoral College between the states and Congress.

It has no role in appointing electors, however, and has no contact with them.

“OFR acts as an intermediary by receiving Certificates of Ascertainment of electors and Certificates of Vote from the States and the District of Columbia and reviewing them for legal sufficiency,” explains Oliver Potts​, Director of the Federal Register. “It then makes them available to Congress for the official accounting of electors and votes.”

As of last week, Federal Register staff was in touch with all states to ensure they have the instructions and resources they need, and provided states with mailing information in this current environment (Instructions for state officials are posted online.)

During the week following the general election, which this year is on November 3, the Federal Register contacts each state and the mayor’s office in the District of Columbia to make a personal contact with a person responsible for the Electoral College process.

A detailed account of the Electoral College Timeline of Events from Election Day through Inauguration Day is available through the National Archives website.

Staff are also preparing to receive the paper certificates from the states, a process which will include scanning, reviewing, logging, and posting certificates to the website. 

“We expect that certificates will start to arrive mid-November,” says Potts.

The Federal Register posts the Certificates of Ascertainment and the Certificates of Vote as soon as possible after receiving them from the states and District of Columbia. They will be available at

Read more about the process and the difference between the certificates in an earlier post from National Archives Historian Jessie Kratz.

In addition to posting the physical certificates on the Electoral College website, the Federal Register makes them available for public inspection for one year following the election. After that year, the certificates will become part of the National Archives collection. Potts says the Federal Register will still be able to accommodate in-person review of the certificates with pandemic precautions in place.

Read more about the Electoral College process and the National Archives’ role on

The Electoral College

Presidential Elections & Inaugurations