Post-Election 2020

What Happens Now? The Post-Election Process


After elections end, there is a flurry of activity that must take place before those elections are truly complete. In Wake County, the election undergoes a process called “Canvass” in which election officials officiate the results before submitting them to various authorities. Canvass takes place during each election on a set schedule. Click here to learn more about the Canvass process in North Carolina.


The Constitution of the United States of America states in Article 1, Section 4, Clause 1: “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.” In other words, each state’s legislative body shall determine when and how elections are held. As such, elections are done differently in every state. Click here to read more about the Elections Clause.

For the General Election in 2020, the timeline of post-election events is expected* to be as follows:

  • November 3, 2020 – Election Day
  • November 4-December 14, 2020 – States are responsible for counting and officiating the votes in their state. The U.S. Code requires the governors of each state to then file Certificates of Ascertainment “as soon as practicable.” Certificate of Ascertainment are documents which outline the official results of the election. Copies are sent to the U.S. Archivist and the Electoral College electors.
  • December 8, 2020 – The “Safe Harbor” deadline provides that if election results are contested in any state, and if the state, prior to election day, has enacted procedures to settle controversies or contests over electors and electoral votes, and if these procedures have been applied, and the results have been determined six days before the electors’ meetings, then these results are considered to be conclusive, and will apply in the counting of the electoral votes.
  • December 14, 2020 – Electors vote in their states for President and Vice President. The votes and all other relevant documentation are then submitted to various officials, including the sitting Vice President of the United States.
  • December 23, 2020 – All certificates must be delivered to the relevant officials. There are procedures in place in the event that certificates are not delivered to all officials.
  • January 6, 2021 – Joint session of Congress meets to count electoral votes and declare election results are met. The Congress has a procedure in place for debating and excluding electoral votes.
  • January 20, 2021 – Presidential Inauguration Day is the day on which the President-Elect and Vice President-Elect are inaugurated and officially take office. The Vice President-Elect takes the oath of office first, followed by the President-Elect at noon.

*Legislation has been introduced in the 116th Congress that could change the dates of “Safe Habor” and electoral college voting. Click here to see more information about the election timeline for 2020 via the Congressional Research Service (CRS, October 22, 2020).

Fall 2020 Post-Election Events