A Procedural Guide to the Electoral College
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Excerpt from an original document located at National Archives and Records Administration

NARA and Office of the Federal Register Procedures

The Archivist of the United States is required by law to perform certain functions relating to the electoral college (3 U.S.C. sections 6, 11, 12, 13). The Archivist has delegated to the Director of the Federal Register the authority to carry out the administration of the electoral college process.

Prior to the General Election

In October of each Presidential election year, the Archivist sends a letter to the Governor of each State and the Mayor of the District of Columbia along with an instruction package prepared by the Office of the Federal Register (OFR) that sets out the States' responsibilities regarding the electoral college. The package also includes a quantity of booklets containing applicable Federal Constitutional and statutory provisions regarding presidential elections to be distributed to each elector.

Also in the month prior to the election, the OFR contacts the Assistant Secretary of the Senate and the House Parliamentarian to make arrangements for the delivery of the electoral college certificates to Congress. And finally, in the month prior to the election, the OFR prepares to receive the electoral college certificates from the States. The OFR makes special arrangements with the Archivist's mailroom staff and messenger service to establish procedures for handling the Certificates and transmitting them from the Archives to the OFR.

After the General Election

During the week following the general election, the OFR calls the Governor's Office in each State and the Mayor's Office in the District of Columbia to make a personal contact with a person responsible for the electoral college process. In some States, the Secretary of State is the official designated to administer the electoral college, but other state officials may be assigned this responsibility according to State law or custom. The OFR confirms that materials mailed in October have arrived and reviews the States' plans for carrying out their responsibilities.

Receipt of Certificates of Ascertainment

Certificates should begin arriving at NARA shortly after the general election held on November 7, 2000. The Archives makes a record of the Certificates of Ascertainment it receives and transmits them to the OFR's Legal Affairs and Policy Staff by special delivery. The OFR logs in a record of the Certificates and checks them for facial legal sufficiency. If there are any problems with a Certificate, an OFR attorney calls the contact person in the State to advise them of the defect. The OFR makes copies of the Certificates of Ascertainment available for public inspection and secures the originals.

Receipt of Certificates of Vote

Certificates of Vote should begin arriving at NARA shortly after the State meetings of the electors held on December 18, 2000. Certificates of Vote are recorded on a log sheet when received at the Archivist's office and at the OFR. Each Certificate is checked for facial legal sufficiency, and if there are any problems with a Certificate, an OFR attorney calls the contact person in that State and the Assistant Secretary of the Senate to inform them of the problems and offer advice as to a solution. After the Certificates of Vote have been determined to be facially sufficient, the OFR makes copies of them available for public inspection and secures the originals.

Certificates of Ascertainment Transmitted to Congress

The OFR prepares cover letters for the Archivist's signature to accompany the Certificates of Ascertainment transmitted to Congress. The OFR hand delivers the Certificates and cover letters to the Vice President's Office in the Senate (the Vice President is the President of the Senate) and the Speaker's Room on the House side of the Capitol and obtains a receipt. If all the Certificates of Ascertainment are received in a timely fashion, they are sent to Congress in one group. However, late arriving Certificates may also be hand delivered separately to Congress so that transmittal of the other Certificates is not delayed.

Certificates of Vote Subject to the Call of the President of the Senate

The OFR holds one of the two original Certificates of Vote subject to the call of the President of the Senate in the event that one or more Certificates fail to reach the Senate in a timely manner. If the Archivist does not receive a Certificate of Vote from a State by a week after the electors meet, the OFR calls that State's contact person to make sure the Certificates were mailed. If the Certificates were not mailed, the OFR advises the State to transmit the Certificates by express mail. If the Certificates were mailed and are overdue in arriving, the OFR calls the Postal Service to request that it trace the package. Finally, if no Certificate of Vote is received from a State by the fourth Wednesday in December after the election, the OFR employs the procedural steps set forth at 3 U.S.C. sections 12 and 13 by securing a duplicate from the Secretary of State of the State or by dispatching a special messenger to obtain the duplicate held by a Federal District judge and hand carrying it to Washington D.C.

Preserving Certificates

After Congress has met in joint session for the official counting of electoral votes, all Certificates of Ascertainment and Certificates of Vote in OFR's files are combined into one file. Each file contains all Certificates from a State, any cover letter accompanying the Certificates, and any envelopes bearing certifications of electors' votes. The files are placed in archival boxes and made available for public inspection at the OFR for one year and then transferred to NARA for permanent retention.

© David Leip 2008 All Rights Reserved