Congress is meeting in a joint session on Wednesday to certify the results of the presidential election that took place on 3 November.
In December, the Electoral College officially elected Joe Biden as the nation’s next president, after state electors gave the Democratic candidate a majority of 306 electoral votes to incumbent President Donald Trump’s 232.
Now it is up to Congress to tally the votes as submitted by the states. Here is a look at how the procedure is anticipated to play out.
Vice President Mike Pence, as president of the Senate, presides over the joint session that is required by the US Constitution to meet and count the electoral votes.
Lawmakers from the House of Representatives and the Senate will assemble in the House chamber at 1 p.m. EST, with Vice President Pence presiding in his role as president of the upper chamber of the United States Congress.
The states' certified results will be brought into the chamber in two wooden boxes.
Mike Pence will open the sealed certificates from each state that contain a record of their electoral votes and hand them to tellers appointed from among the House and Senate bipartisan members.
The results are then read out loud, with the electoral votes presented in alphabetical order of the states, as the tally is recorded and counted. Finally, the presiding officer announces who has won the majority votes for both president and vice president.
Contingency Plan for Tie Elections
If two presidential candidates each received a majority of the electoral votes but are tied – something that has not happened since the 1800s - then according to the Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, the House of Representatives would determine which one would be President, with each congressional delegation having one vote.
In the 1800 election, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr received the same number of electoral votes - exactly 73 – with a divided House of Representatives deadlocked 36 times before it finally picked Thomas Jefferson as the winner.
Last Chance to Object
Once a teller has read out the certificate from a state, any member can stand up and object to that particular state’s vote on any grounds.
The objection should be in writing and signed by a member of the House and a member of the Senate for the presiding officer to agree to hear it.
In case of an objection, the joint session suspends, requiring the House and Senate to proceed to hold separate sessions to consider it for a period of "not more than two hours", according to the Congressional Research Service.
Members are granted up to five minutes to speak in favour or against the objection.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., will preside over the House debate, while according to aides cited by AP, the Democratic response would be led by California Reps. Adam Schiff and Zoe Lofgren, Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin and Colorado Rep. Joe Neguse.
Then each chamber will vote, with a simple majority required to uphold the objection.
Failing that, the original electoral votes are counted without changes.
The last occasion when an objection was considered was in 2005, when Democrats Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio and Sen. Barbara Boxer of California protested Ohio’s electoral votes, decrying voting irregularities.
The objection was debated by the House of Representatives and the Senate and rejected.
Currently, at least 140 members of the House of Representatives and 12 members of the Senate are expected to object to the count from a spate of crucial battleground states where Donald Trump alleged widespread ‘fraud’ and have demanded an independent commission to conduct a forensic audit.
Trump has repeatedly attributed his Democratic rival Joe Biden’s victory to massive election rigging and said he will acknowledge defeat until after legal votes are counted and the illegal ones are discounted.
However, over 60 legal cases filed by the Trump campaign to challenge the election results have been rejected by state and federal courts on procedural grounds.
Vice President Mike Pence’s role as presiding officer is largely ceremonial, without the power to affect the outcome.
The winner of the US presidential election will proceed to take the oath of office on 20 January.