Even though the winner of an American election usually gets announced soon after the vote happens, the result is never actually official on Election Day. It’s not even official once the media makes their result projections, as happened last week. Instead, election results actually become real when state and local election authorities make sure that every valid vote was counted and formally certify them.
While President Donald Trump continues to dispute the election—he’s launched over a dozen legal efforts to prove fraud, challenge counts, and delay certification—every lawsuit has effectively failed so far.
Election officials appointed by the Trump administration say the president’s claims are dangerous and lack any credibility. Every state says there is no evidence of fraud, and federal and local election officials of both parties released a joint statement to say exactly that. As it has been since he started making accusations years ago, the president’s claims about election fraud are utterly empty.
What does certifying results really mean? The process is the same this year as it’s been any previous year. Election officials canvass results by tabulating and verifying the outcome across their states. They look at provisional ballots, and those which were challenged according to state and sometimes even county laws. After checking them over, the results are certified: the formal process in which the outcome is made official. The exact method varies state to state, but generally a secretary of state or a state board of elections will meet after counting is concluded and sign a certification of the results.
Counting may have taken longer this year because the pandemic dramatically increased the number of mail-in ballots, but the only meaningful difference is that the sitting president is carrying on an unprecedented attack on the results. Trump’s legal challenges and recount requests could