By Faye Gaston
In the United States, Americans don't directly elect the President and Vice-President. The Electoral College does. On the second Monday after the second Wednesday in December, "slates of Electors" selected by voters convene in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to formally cast their votes for President and Vice-President.
This would be December 14, 2020. They send certificates of their vote to their state's chief election official (in Alabama, the Secretary of State), the National Archives, and the current President of the United States.
All the states appoint a number of "Electors" to the Electoral College equal to the number of representatives they have in Congress.
On January 6, 2021, at 1:00 p.m. the vote count is finalized and the results are certified. The sitting Vice-President (Michael Pence), acting as Senate president, presides over a joint session of Congress to read aloud the certificates cast by the Electors representing all 50 states and District of Columbia in alphabetical order to finalize the vote count.
If no member of Congress objects to any of the certificates in writing, the Senate president officially certifies the selection of President-elect and Vice-President elect.
On January 20, 2021, at noon, the President and Vice-President are formally inaugurated and sworn into office.
The President is sworn in by the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court and the Vice-President is sworn in by another government official of their choosing.
Right now the process is occurring for officials around the country to fully "canvass and certify" the results of the November 3, General Election. This takes multiple days or weeks.
Canvassing boards process and tabulate the votes of those who voted in person, domestic absentee and mail-in ballots, provisional ballots, and ballots from overseas and military voters.
During this process we are seeing the legal challenges over which ballots should count. The Trump campaign has filed lawsuits in multiple states seeking to challenge the validity of ballots or stop vote counting.
When the "canvasses" are complete in each county, local election officials certify each county's result and the Governor of each state certifies the statewide results. The Governor then transmits a copy of the results and the names of the slate of electors (Electoral College) to the National Archives.
The Electoral College will formally cast their votes for President and Vice-President on December 14, 2020.
The election by the Electoral College has resulted in some presidential elections (2000 and 2016) in which the winner of the national popular vote in the General Election loses the Electoral College vote.