In a Q & A post yesterday, Marc Ambinder explained in answer to a question how Democrats could delay the seating of newly elected Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown. Ambinder was answering the question before the election results were known:
Q. Can Democrats really delay seating Brown?
A. Probably. There are several built-in election procedure traps, including the counting of absentee ballots and ballots from soldiers overseas. If for some reason these ballots are counted and there are no significant challenges by the seventh day after the election -- that's next Wednesday -- State of the Union Day -- then Secretary of State Bill Galvin could certify the election if he wanted to. Harry Reid, the majority leader, won't seat a senator until the secretary of state certifies him or her. But a week is too short a time frame here: under federal law, overseas votes can arrive as late as January 29. Throw in a few days for the counting of provisional ballots, and we're into early February. Then the formal certification meeting happens, which can take an extra day, depending on who is where.
After the results are received from the local election officials, the secretary of state will present the total results to the governor and the Governor's Council for certification. Only after the results are certified by the governor and the Governor's Council can a certificate of election be issued. (The governor and the council schedule their own meetings, which usually take place on Wednesdays.) Note: it is not unusual for the Senate to wait for certification before seating the senator. (Recall how Al Franken wasn't seated; recall how Roland Burris had to jump through hoops before he could enter the building.) Republicans will demand that, if the margin of victory if sufficiently large (and assuming Brown wins), that he be seated immediately. Democrats will cry: "Count all the votes, follow the rules." . . . MORE