U.S. Archivist David S. Ferriero Responds to Capitol Riots
Press Release · Thursday, January 7, 2021

Washington, DC

Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero today responded to the riots at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, January 6, that took place as Congress took up the presidential election certification process. He stated that the National Archives is taking appropriate measures to protect its employees and property, including the Charters of Freedom – the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights – and shared this statement with National Archives staff:  


Yesterday I stood at my office window overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue and watched the angry mob make its way from the Ellipse rally to Capitol Hill. Waving Confederate flags and Trump 2020 campaign banners, chanting “Stop the Steal,” “Four More Years,” and “USA, USA, USA,” these fellow Americans were on their way to disrupt a sacred ceremonial rite of transition in which the National Archives plays an important role. Having watched and listened to the charged language of the rally speeches, I was even more concerned as I watched this mob move by. They were on a mission.  


My pride in the work that our Office of the Federal Register does in administering the Electoral College process was very much in my mind as was the role that we all play in defending and supporting the Constitution of the United States every day. And special pride in the role that our Agency plays in the orderly transition of administrations. As members of the National Archives staff, I hope you share that pride in our mission and the role we play in our democracy.  


As my attention shifted to the televised Joint Session of Congress called to certify the vote, I was horrified to watch the storming of the Capitol and the increased agitation of the mob still streaming by our building. Not since 1814 have the hallowed halls of Congress been breached and those were foreign troops. Yesterday, our own countrymen invaded the Capitol.    


With order restored, at 3:44 this morning, Congress certified the election of Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris as the next President and Vice President of the United States. This morning from my office, as the sun warms the limestone of buildings around us, I am reminded of the words attributed to Benjamin Franklin at the end of the Constitutional Convention when asked “…what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?” to which he responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.” Yesterday we passed the latest test.   


The National Archives’ Role in the Electoral College
The Archivist of the United States is required by law to perform the following functions relating to the Electoral College, and delegates the authority to carry out the administration of the Electoral College process to the Director of the National Archives Office of the Federal Register (OFR). This process includes the following:


Before Election Day
In advance of each Presidential election, the Archivist contacts each Governor and the DC Mayor outlining the States’ Electoral College responsibilities. OFR prepares to receive the Electoral College Certificates from the States and contacts Congressional staff to arrange for the delivery of these Certificates to Congress.


After Election Day
In the week following the general election, OFR contacts each State and the DC Mayor’s Office to speak with the person responsible for the Electoral College process.


Receipt of Certificates of Ascertainment
Certificates of Ascertainment arrive at the National Archives and OFR within a few weeks after election day. The Certificates are noted, transmitted to OFR, logged, and checked for accuracy. Problems are noted and reported to the states for clarification. Once determined to be accurate, they are posted on the OFR website. 2020 Electoral College Results here.  


Receipt of Certificates of Vote
Certificates of Vote begin arriving at the National Archives and OFR after the Meeting of the Electors, and the process is the same as the receipt of Certificates of Ascertainment (noted, transmitted, logged, checked, posted).  


Certificates of Vote Subject to the Call of the President of the Senate
OFR holds one of the two original Certificates of Vote subject to the call of the President of the Senate (in the event that they do not reach the Senate on time). If the Archivist does not receive a Certificate of Vote from a State within a week of the meeting of the electors, OFR contacts the State to confirm that the votes were sent. If OFR does not receive any Certificates by the deadline, it gets a duplicate original from the Secretary of State of the State or the Federal District judge.


Preserving Certificates
After the Joint Session of Congress for the official counting of electoral votes, all Certificates of Ascertainment and Certificates of Vote remain available for public inspection at OFR for public inspection for one year following the election. Afterwards, the Certificates become part of the National Archives collection.


See also:  Presidential Elections & Inaugurations outlining the National Archives’ extensive related online resources.


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This page was last reviewed on January 7, 2021.
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