Dealing with Electoral College Controversies

  • 22 November 2016
  • NormanL
Dealing with Electoral College Controversies

Following-up on our previous article about the left's effort to sway the votes of presidential electors, the Congressional Research Service has put together a brief report on how the Electoral College works. There is a section on how individual congressmen can object to electoral votes, and the procedure for handling those objections. Given the left's rumblings about fiddling with the vote, it's worth repeating the section here:

3 U.S.C. §17 lays out procedures for each house to follow in debating and voting on an objection. These procedures limit debate on the objection to not more than two hours, during which each Member may speak only once, and for not more than five minutes. Then “it shall be the duty of the presiding officer of each House to put the main question without further debate.” Under this provision, the presiding officer in each house held in 1969 that a motion to table the objection was not in order.15

In the House, the Speaker announced both in 1969 and 2005 that he would attempt to recognize supporters of the objection and opponents in an alternating fashion for the duration of the two- hour period. In one instance in 1969, the Speaker inquired whether a Member supported or opposed the challenge before he agreed to recognize him to speak. Members can yield to each other during debate as they can during five-minute debate in the Committee of the Whole, and many chose to do so in 2005. The Speaker also entertained unanimous consent requests to insert material in the Congressional Record.

In 1969 the Senate agreed, by unanimous consent, to a different way in which the time for debate was to be controlled and allocated, granting one hour each to the majority and minority leaders and authorizing them to yield not more than five minutes to any Senator seeking recognition to speak.16 The five-minute debate prescribed in the statute was followed in 2005, however, and the Presiding Officer entertained requests to insert statements into the Congressional Record. 

We don't expect there will be problems when the electoral votes are tallied. But if there are, rules and precedents exist to deal with them. Given that Republicans control both the House and Senate, we would further expect any Democratic objections to be voted down., learn, and be prepared.