Tuesday marks the federal “safe harbor” deadline, which requires states to lock in their slates of electors who will formally cast the ballots for President-elect Joe Biden next week.
Under federal law, the deadline ensures that Congress counts the electoral votes of states that have resolved all disputes and chosen their electors a full six days before the Electoral College meets to officially cast the ballots.
Electors will gather in their state capitals next Monday, which put the safe harbor deadline on Tuesday. After the electors cast their ballots, they will be sent to Washington, D.C., to be counted by Congress on Jan. 6.
The deadline, typically a little-noticed formality in the electoral process, has attracted attention this year due to President Donald Trump’s groundless efforts to overturn Biden’s victory in multiple battleground states.
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All but a couple of the Trump campaign’s legal challenges have been dismissed in state and federal courts as baseless and lacking evidence to support any claims of voter fraud. Federal judges in Michigan and Georgia threw out two suits on Monday.
The only state that may not meet the safe harbor deadline is Wisconsin, where a judge has scheduled a hearing for Thursday to hear a Trump campaign appeal that was rejected last week by the state supreme court.
Wisconsin’s electors will still meet on Monday to cast their votes for Biden, but it’s theoretically possible that Congress could reject them during counting next month if the state misses the safe harbor deadline — a possibility experts say is highly unlikely. For that to happen, lawmakers in both chambers would need to object in writing.
Analysts say Trump’s longshot legal effort takes another hit with Tuesday’s passing of the safe harbor deadline, as Biden’s victory becomes all but “locked in.”
“Without credible evidence to support the idea that there’s a problem, it just becomes less and less likely that anyone is going to disrupt the schedule as it unfolds in state statutes and federal law,” William and Mary School of Law election law program chief Rebecca Green told USA Today.
The campaign is appealing setbacks in Pennsylvania, but legal analysts doubt they have any potential to keep the state from meeting the safe harbor deadline or block its 20 electoral votes for Biden. Pennsylvania, Georgia and Michigan were three key states that allowed Biden to clinch the presidency.
“Assuming that the pending federal court litigation does not give the plaintiffs any of the remedies they are seeking, these federal cases should not affect safe harbor status, even if they go past Tuesday,” Ohio State University election law expert Edward Foley told NBC News.
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