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WASHINGTON -- Is it possible the election will be up in the air and we won't have a president on Inauguration Day: Jan. 20, 2021?

Even if the election is messy and contested in court, the country will have a president on Inauguration Day. The Constitution and federal law ensure it. Here's what happens after voters go to the polls on Nov.

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First, states have more than a month to count ballots, including the expected surge of mail-in ballots, and conduct recounts if necessary. But states' electoral votes have to be cast on Dec. 14.

Courts will be mindful of that in refereeing any disputes. During the 2000 election, the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately ended Florida's vote recount, saying time had run out before electors were set to meet.

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Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the fourth day of the Democratic National Convention, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020, at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Del.



When the electors meet, the candidate who gets at least 270 of the 538 electoral votes wins. But what happens if election issues still prevent a winner from being named? The Constitution has an answer.

The 12th Amendment says that in that case, the House of Representatives elects the president and the Senate elects the vice president. The new Congress that enters in January is the one tasked with carrying out the so-called "contingent election." The president has only been selected this way once, in 1825. The winner was John Quincy Adams.

In a contingent election, House members have to choose among the three people with the most electoral votes. Each state delegation gets one vote, and 26 votes are required to win. In the Senate, the choice is between the top two electoral vote-getters and each senator gets a vote, with 51 votes required to win.

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Watch President Donald Trump's full speech at the White House for the RNC.



What if that fails and the House hasn't elected a president by Inauguration Day? Then the 20th Amendment takes over. It says the vice president-elect acts as president until a president is picked. And if there's no vice president selected by Inauguration Day?

Well, then the Presidential Succession Act applies.

It says that the speaker of the House of Representatives, the Senate president or a Cabinet officer, in that order, would act as president until there's a president or vice president.

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Tags: politics politics election day government joe biden 2020 presidential election president donald trump inauguration day vice president electoral vote a president

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Ted Cruz predicts Senate Republicans will have votes to confirm Trump’s Supreme Court nominee before election

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, appeared on Fox News Monday night to press the importance of filling the Supreme Court vacancy after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death.

“I think this is exactly why President Trump was elected,” Cruz told "The Ingraham Angle," promoting his new book "One Vote Away: How a Single Supreme Court Seat Can Change History."

“He was elected to nominate principled constitutionalists to the Supreme Court and this is why the American people elected a Republican majority and they did so repeatedly. They elected a Republican majority in the Senate in 2014, they did so again in 2016, and in 2018, they grew our majority in the Senate,” Cruz said.

TRUMP SAYS SUPREME COURT LIST IS DOWN TO 5 PEOPLE, ANNOUNCEMENT COMING FRIDAY OR SATURDAY

President Trump on Monday met with Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who sources say is the potential frontrunner to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat.

The news supported widespread speculation that emerged after Ginsburg's death. Although Trump recently released a lengthy list of potential nominees, he appeared to narrow those down over the weekend when he said he wanted a woman to fill the spot.

On Monday, Trump said he had narrowed his choices down to five potential nominees.

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Cruz said that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton “embrace radical leftists who want to undermine the Constitution and Bill of Rights.”

“President Trump promised to nominate justices in the mold of [Antonin] Scalia and [Clarence] Thomas,” Cruz said.

Cruz said his forthcoming book lays out the "stakes of this election."

"Every one of our rights, whether it is free speech, we’re one vote away from losing our fundamental protections on free speech," Cruz said. "Religious liberty: the right to worship according to our faith according to our conscience. We’re one vote away from losing it and ... it comes down to the court and the president is going to make the nomination this week and I believe we will have the votes in the Senate to confirm this justice and critically to confirm the justice before election day.”

Fox News' Sam Dorman contributed to this report.

Joshua Q. Nelson, is a reporter for FoxNews.com. You can find him on Twitter @joshuaqnelson.

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