Can Congress overturn the election results?

Can Congress overturn the election results?
Source: Ken Cedeno, Reuters
The Trump campaign and his allies believe they may have one last chance at overturning the Electoral College when Congress comes together to validate the results of the presidential election.

With the Electoral College having now confirmed Joe Biden as president-elect of the United States, many believe President Donald Trump has lost the final battle. But the Trump campaign and his allies believe they may have one last chance at overturning the Electoral College when Congress comes together to validate the results of the presidential election.

Congress has final say in presidential election

On January 6, 2020, Congress will meet to validate the results of the presidential election. The president of the Senate, a position currently held by Vice President Mike Pence, will open the certificates signed and certified by the Electoral College and count the votes.

According to the Constitution, Pence’s role “shall have power to preserve order; and no debate shall be allowed and no question shall be put by the presiding officer except to either House on a motion to withdraw.” The person with the most votes at the end of the count will then be the next president. However, The Electoral Count Act of 1887 allows for objections under certain conditions.

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) explained the process by saying, “Objections to individual state returns must be made in writing by at least one Member each of the Senate and House of Representatives. If an objection meets these requirements, the joint session recesses and the two houses separate and debate the question in their respective chambers for a maximum of two hours.”

GOP alternate electors

Senior presidential adviser Stephen Miller claimed that the president would send votes from a panel of “alternate electors" to Congress in order to certify Trump’s victory.

“As we speak, an alternate slate of electors in the contested states is going to vote and we are going to send those results to Congress," Miller explained on Fox News. He went on to explain that the alternate votes would allow Congress to certify a second term of Trump’s presidency if the campaign’s current legal challenges were successful.

GOP “alternate” electors held votes in swing states like Pennsylvania, Georgia, Wisconsin and Nevada.

“We took this procedural vote to preserve any legal claims that may be presented going forward,” says Bernie Comfort, chair of the Trump campaign in Pennsylvania. “This was in no way an effort to usurp or contest the will of the Pennsylvania voters."

Republicans used the 1960 presidential election – where Democratic electors cast conditional votes in Hawaii as Democratic election challenges made their way through the courts – as precedent for their actions.

Potential challenges in Congress

Alabama Representative Mo Brooks plans on challenging the validity of the Electoral College results on January 6.

During an interview with Fox News’s Lou Dobbs, Brooks called on other House Republicans to join in the challenge. When Dobbs called this move “extreme,” Brooks explained, “This is not unusual, the law is very clear, the House of Representatives in combination with the United States Senate has the lawful authority to accept or reject Electoral College submissions from states with such flawed election systems that they are not worthy of our trust." He later added, “What we say, goes. That’s the final verdict.”

Brooks faces an uphill battle for his plan to succeed. The challenge would only be accepted if it is approved by a majority in both the House and the Senate. If the challenge has signatures from both the House and the Senate acknowledging the objection, then the two chambers vote separately to accept or reject.

“They then reassemble in joint session, and announce the results of their respective votes,” the CRS explains further. “An objection to a state’s electoral vote must be approved by both houses in order for any contested votes to be excluded.”

Approval of any opposition would have to be signed-off by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives. So far, no other House Representatives, either Republican or Democrat, have offered their full support to Brooks’ efforts.

In the Senate, however, Missouri Republican Josh Hawley has taken up Brooks’ call, declaring that he will raise objections to the confirmation on January 6 in Congress, likely leading to a floor vote. Hawley announced his intention by alleging that “some states, particularly Pennsylvania, failed to follow their own state election laws.”

Despite Hawley’s announcement and the current Republican Senate majority, several GOP Senators have already rejected Trump’s attempt at challenging the election results.

Republican Senator Mitt Romney has reprimanded Trump’s actions, tweeting, “It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American President.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who supported Trump throughout his presidency, warned against fighting the Electoral College results.

“Our system of government has the processes to determine who will be sworn in on Jan. 20. The Electoral College has spoken,” McConnell said.

With this last step unlikely to be overturned, Trump’s bid to overturn the election may have met its end.

Have a tip or story? Get in touch with our reporters at