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YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS | Can Congress reverse the outcome of the Nov. 3 election?

President Donald Trump and his supporters continue to falsely assert that members of the House and Senate will reverse the outcome of the Nov. 3 election when they meet Jan. 6. Nothing could be further from the truth. 
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Attorney David Betras

“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.” — U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, 1983; Vice President Mike Pence, 2020

I am using that quote as the jumping-off point for this week’s column because President Donald Trump and his supporters continue to falsely assert that members of the House and Senate will reverse the outcome of the Nov. 3 election when they meet Jan. 6 to open, verify, and count the electoral votes submitted to them by the states. 

Nothing could be further from the truth. 

Despite the specious claims made by conservative pundits and legal “experts,” Congress does not have the power to subvert the will of the American people. As much as he may loathe the prospect, Mike Pence will announce that President-elect Joe Biden is President Joe Biden when the vote counting ends. 

A highly detailed and meticulously researched report released by the Congressional Research Service on Dec. 8 explains why the result is both pre-ordained and inevitable. The process, which is governed by Article II, Section 1 and Amendment 12 of the Constitution, the Electoral Count Act of 1887, and other provisions of the U.S. Code, will begin when Vice President Pence gavels a joint session of Congress to order at 1 p.m. 

The vice president will then open certificates of the electoral votes submitted by each state and Washington, D.C. in alphabetical order. He then hands the certificates to “tellers,” two members each from the House and Senate, who then read the vote count for each state into the record. 

After a certificate is read, Pence will ask if there are any objections. All objections must be presented in writing, must state the grounds for the objection clearly and concisely and must be signed by at least one senator and one representative. 

As we all know, a number of Republican representatives and at least one senator have announced that they will object to votes cast by a number of states. 

Once an objection is filed the process will grind to a halt. The joint session will be suspended, and the House and Senate will then meet separately to debate the objection for two hours. At this point, objectors will roll out the same baseless claims about voter fraud and irregularities that have been tossed out more than 50 times by state and federal courts. 

When the two hours expire both a simple majority of House and Senate members must vote to sustain the objection. At that point, the effort to overturn the election will crash and burn: the House is controlled by Democrats and many Republican Senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have already acknowledged Biden’s victory. 

The objections will be rebuffed, and the contested electoral votes will be counted.

Yes, we will have to endure up to a combined 24 hours of lunacy, but eventually, Vice President Pence will announce that Joe Biden of Delaware and Kamala Harris of California have received the required majority votes and are elected president and vice president of the United States”

At that point, every American should celebrate because both the rule of law and our democratic process will have prevailed.

—  Attorney David Betras, a senior partner at BetrasKopp & Harshman LLC., directs the firm’s non-litigation activities and practices criminal defense law in both the state and federal courts. He has practiced law for 35 years. Have a legal question you'd like answered here? Send it to news@mahoningmatters.com.