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How election certification works and why it matters more than ever this year

November 19, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Luzerne County workers canvas ballots that arrived after closing of voting until Friday at 5pm and postmarked by Nov. 3rd as vote counting in the general election continues, Friday, Nov. 6, 2020, in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Though states finalize and certify their results after every election, the process of confirming the winner of the general election has taken on new significance this year, as President Donald Trump continues to contest his loss.

(CNN)Though states finalize and certify their results after every election, the process of confirming the winner of the general election has taken on new significance this year, as President Donald Trump continues to contest his loss.

States certify their results after reviewing disputed ballots, conducting post-election audits, and double-checking numbers for accuracy.

His campaign is trying to block or delay certification in key states in hopes of overturning Biden's victory through the Electoral College.

The idea is that if there's no certification, then Republican-run state legislatures in a few key states could appoint pro-Trump slates of presidential electors, even though Biden won the popular vote in their state.

"This is why they want to delay certification, because delaying certification could be a predicate to arguing that the state didn't make a choice, and that the legislature should step in," said Rick Hasen, a CNN contributor and an election law professor at the University of California, Irvine.

While a spokesperson for Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, another Republican, also poured cold water on the idea of appointing electors that didn't support the winner of the statewide vote.

"Our legislation, election code makes it clear we have nothing to do with selecting electors," spokesperson Jennifer Kocher said, adding that Corman is not considering appointing pro-Trump electors and has never considered that as a possibility.

The scheme essentially becomes impossible if key states certify their presidential results before December 8, which is known as a "safe harbor" deadline under federal law.

If a state missed the deadline, then Congress can consider disputed slates of electors.

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