Election Powers: Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
In This Resource
While we often think about elections as big national events, they’re run by the states. Statewide officers like governors, attorneys general, and secretaries of state — as well as election boards and local election officials — all play a critical role in ensuring our elections are free, fair, and securely administered.
In our decentralized system, Congress also has a role to play in creating election laws, funding election administration and infrastructure, and in the counting of Electoral College votes. In particular, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives has both a significant public platform that can impact public trust in elections, and a critical role in defining how Congress uses its election powers.
Election Legislation and Funding
- With regards to legislation, the Speaker determines membership and leadership of House Committees for the majority party. They also exercise control over which bills reach the House floor. Examples of House election legislation introduced during this session include: retention of federal election records; increasing pay for election workers; paper receipts for voting systems; and expansion of early voting.
- The Speaker can also task committees to conduct investigations, which could include investigations of states’ election procedures and results.
- The Speaker also plays a critical role in negotiating the federal budget, which can include federal funding for elections through Help America Vote Act grants, as well as set the funding levels for departments and agencies that safeguard elections, such as the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
Congressional Count of Electoral College Votes
- When it comes to the presidential election cycle, the Speaker has a central role in the orderly and safe administration of Congress’ count of the Electoral College votes during the January 6 Joint Session of Congress. Every four years, Congress must adopt a concurrent resolution to govern the procedures for this Joint Session, and the Speaker has the power to negotiate, agree to, or dispute and object to, this resolution.
- The Speaker has various appointment and oversight powers that are critical to the process of counting Electoral College votes. The Speaker appoints, and can also fire, the House Parliamentarian — a nonpartisan administrator who provides the House with advice on its parliamentary rules and procedures, with the goal of achieving consistency through adherence to House precedent. This will be of critical importance during the January 6, 2025, Joint Session to count the results of the 2024 presidential election, which will be governed by a new set of procedures as a result of 2022 changes to the Electoral Count Act. The Speaker also appoints two of the four tellers who are charged with reading out the state certificates and votes at the Joint Session. The other two tellers are appointed by Senate leadership.
Public Safety at the Capitol and for Members of Congress
- The Speaker, in collaboration with other leaders in Washington, D.C., including the President, can play a critical role in ensuring public safety at the Capitol complex. This will be paramount for the certification of the 2024 presidential election, given the violent attack on the Capitol during the Joint Session to count the 2020 Electoral College votes.
- The Speaker nominates the House Sergeant at Arms, an officer of the House charged with maintaining order and ensuring the safety of members of Congress. They also have a role in making appointments to the Capitol Police Board, which provides oversight of the Chief and the United States Capitol Police force. These two institutions have a key role in addressing the ongoing threats of violence aimed at members of Congress and securing the safety of the Capitol, both of which will be essential for the next presidential election contest.