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Explainer-Why ‘secure harbor’ day spells hassle for Trump’s authorized bid to overturn election defeat



© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump rally in Harrisburg, PA after Biden is said winner of the election


By Jan Wolfe

(Reuters) -Tuesday is “secure harbor” day, a deadline beneath U.S. election legislation that can make President Donald Trump’s already floundering marketing campaign to overturn his election loss much more inconceivable.

Right here is an evidence of why Trump, who has made unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud, is operating out of time to contest Democratic President-elect Joe Biden’s victory within the Nov. 3 election.


It’s a deadline, set by a U.S. legislation from 1887, for states to certify the outcomes of the presidential election. Assembly the deadline shouldn’t be obligatory but it surely offers assurance {that a} state’s outcomes won’t be second-guessed by Congress.

The secure harbor date falls six days earlier than the assembly of the Electoral Faculty, by which slates of “electors” formally choose the presidential nominee who gained the favored vote of their residence states. A candidate wants at the least 270 electoral votes to seize the presidency. Biden has amassed 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232.

This 12 months, the secure harbor date falls on Dec. 8.

As soon as that date passes, Trump can nonetheless press on with lawsuits looking for to overturn Biden’s victory.

However the authorized marketing campaign turns into much more tough, since judges will doubtless say it’s too late to overturn the outcomes.

The Trump marketing campaign performed down the deadline in a press release on Tuesday, signaling it could proceed with authorized challenges into January.

“The one fastened day within the U.S. Structure is the inauguration of the President on January 20 at midday,” Trump authorized advisers Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis stated within the assertion. “Regardless of the media making an attempt desperately to proclaim that the struggle is over, we are going to proceed to champion election integrity till authorized vote is counted pretty and precisely.”


The secure harbor framework is specified by the Electoral Depend Act (ECA), handed in response to the 1876 presidential election. Ends in a number of states had been disputed that 12 months, main Congress to create an Electoral Fee, whose selection of Republican nominee Rutherford B. Hayes was solely ratified by lawmakers after protracted political warfare.

Protected harbor day provides states an incentive to resolve any disputes concerning the winner “earlier reasonably than later,” stated Justin Levitt, an election legislation scholar at Loyola Regulation Faculty in Los Angeles.

Levitt stated the secure harbor framework was meant to stop a situation by which two completely different election outcomes are submitted from the identical state.

Usually, a state’s governor certifies a slate of electors for the candidate that gained the favored vote. In states with Democratic governors and Republican-controlled legislatures, it’s potential that the legislature might ship its personal slate of electors, creating “dueling slates of electors.”

Underneath the ECA, Congress could be sure to acknowledge electors licensed by the governor if that occurs earlier than the secure harbor date.


Sure. As of Monday night time, 47 states and the District of Columbia had already licensed their outcomes. These states give Biden the electoral votes he must win the presidency.

The remaining states — Colorado, Hawaii and New Jersey — are anticipated to certify earlier than the Dec. 14 assembly of the Electoral Faculty. Trump has not contested Biden’s wins in these states.


The 538 electors within the Electoral Faculty will meet of their respective states on Dec. 14.

Stung by a collection of court docket defeats, the Trump crew has rested its hopes on getting Republican-controlled legislatures in battleground states gained by Biden to put aside the outcomes and declare Trump the winner.

That argument loses power as soon as electors forged their votes.

Congress will formally tally the electoral votes throughout a particular joint session on Jan. 6.

Biden is anticipated to be sworn in at midday on Jan. 20, a date often called Inauguration Day that’s set within the Structure.