Now that the votes have been counted in the US election, states will begin certifying their counts in a formal legal process that is governed by the calendar.
As President Donald Trump seeks recounts and delays in certification of results in some places, time is not on his side. Inexorably, the imperatives of math and the time are beginning to take over.
“In these kinds of situations, at this point, it is appropriate to ask for a recount, but not to stop the certifications,” said Chris Sautter, a Washington lawyer who specialises in election law.
“Now, it goes to the boards of canvassers and they just check the math. They do not go beneath,” Sautter told Al Jazeera.
“What Trump wants to do obviously is delay the process,” said Sautter who is representing Democrats in a lawsuit brought by Republicans in Michigan.
“Even, if by some miracle, he were able to reverse the outcome in one of these states, it still wouldn’t be enough to change the election.”
Nationwide, states can begin certifying results on November 10 and depending on state law most will have completed the process by the end of the month.
The contest over the outcome of the election comes down to only a few states. Georgia and Wisconsin are likely to go to recounts, Sautter said.
In other states, Trump faces an uphill battle in his efforts to block or delay certification of the vote.
Here are the November and December dates in key swing states:
Election boards can begin certifying the results as soon as today, six days after the election, and no later than 20 days after, or November 23. On the fourth Monday following the election, November 30, the results from the election boards are presented to the secretary of state who will then certify them.
Unofficial returns are due from county clerks on November 10. Candidates then have five days to petition for a recount in individual counties before the votes are certified as official. Certification would have to wait until any recounts are completed.
Voters may petition a county court within five days to order counties to conduct a full or partial recount. They must allege errors in the initial count. By law, any recount would have to be completed by November 24.
The board of state canvassers are, by law, to meet at the secretary of state’s office 20 days after the election, which would be November 23. The secretary of state can direct completion of the statements of electors for president and vice president beginning as soon as tomorrow on November 10.
The law in Georgia requires the secretary of state and then the governor to certify the results of the election within 17 days, which would be by November 20. The timeline can be modified by court order, however, subject to just cause.
Candidates may also petition the secretary of state for a recount by providing specific evidence of alleged errors or discrepancies. A recount is expected.
Local boards of election must certify results by December 1 and present those to the state governor who has until December 14 to name presidential electors.
A recount must be requested within one day of completion of the initial count and must be completed within 13 days. A machine recount in 2016 produced only a 131-vote shift in favour of Trump.