What happens after the US election on November 3rd?
On November 3rd, eligible voters in each state cast their vote. Since the President of the United States is elected indirectly, the votes of the electorate only determine the composition of the electoral college – the so-called “Electoral College” – which ultimately elects the president.
It will meet 41 days after the election on December 14th to elect the presidential candidates. The 538 electoral women and electors then vote in their states – ideally this is just a formality and reflects the result from the states. At the
January 6th, the US Congress will officially announce who will be the next President and Vice President at a joint session of the two chambers of parliament from 7:00 p.m. CET.
The new president will not be inaugurated until January 20th and solemnly take his oath of office in front of the Capitol, the parliament building in the capital Washington. Until then, the incumbent president will continue to lead the country.
These are the possible scenarios after the US election:
In response to inquiries from journalists, Trump has repeatedly left it open whether he would accept an election defeat. However, there is no model in recent US history for a scenario in which an incumbent refused to admit defeat. The legal situation is also not prepared for such a case. Should that happen, the division of the country into opposing political camps is likely to escalate dangerously. There are many possible scenarios for this case – all of them are of course speculative.
Scenario one: Trump’s campaign team is defending itself in one or more states with lawsuits against defeat and demands a recount of votes. Trump would speak of massive electoral fraud with regard to the postal vote, regardless of the veracity of such a claim. Trump announces weeks after the election that he will leave the White House in January – but he will continue to express his allegations of alleged election fraud.
Scenario two: Trump’s campaign is legally unsuccessful against the result. The president still refuses to admit defeat. The electorate is voting for Biden as the new president, so Trump would have to resign on January 20th. Biden said in June that he was “absolutely convinced” that the military would escort Trump out of the White House if he refused. Chief of Staff Mark Milley said, however, that the military would play no role in the event of a controversial election result.
Scenario three: In this complicated and probably less likely case, the choice was extremely tight for Biden. Now the outcome from a state like Wisconsin or Michigan, where Republicans control parliament, could be decisive. Parliament could declare Trump the election winner when certifying the results under the pretext of electoral fraud, even if Biden would have received the most votes. The democratic governors still have to sign the result. You could then send another result to Washington – chaos would be programmed in such a situation. A similarly controversial election could only be resolved in 1877 with a political horse trade.
Scenario four: Biden loses the election and admits his defeat, Trump’s second and final term begins on January 20th.
Scenario five: Biden wins by a large margin, which is why Trump admits his defeat despite the concerns about the postal vote.
Scenario six: Biden just loses the election, calls for recounts and speaks of election fraud. Ultimately, he admits his defeat, Trump’s second term begins on January 20. However, protests from Democrats and left groups are likely.
Scenario seven: Like Clinton in 2016, Biden secured the most direct votes, but ultimately lost just a little because of the composition of the electoral college. There are likely to be protests that would also question the fairness of the electoral system.
Disaster scenario: Trump loses, but he and the Justice Department refuse to recognize the result. Protests and riots broke out across the country. Trump installs the National Guard, he could even proclaim martial law (“insurrection act”) in order to be able to use the military. Chaos and violence threaten. Nothing like it has happened in US history.