Senate aides rescued boxes containing the electoral votes as a mob besieged the Capitol. Without them, Congress may not have been able to affirm Biden's win as quickly.

Senate aides rescued boxes containing the electoral votes as a mob besieged the Capitol. Without them, Congress may not have been able to affirm Biden's win as quickly.
Aides carry boxes containing state Electoral College votes during a joint session of Congress at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC.Olivier Douliery/Getty
  • Rioters protesting President Donald Trump's loss of the 2020 election breached the US Capitol building on Wednesday, forcing members of Congress to evacuate the building.
  • Congress was in the middle of counting states' electoral votes, which are needed for one final reaffirmation of President-elect Joe Biden's win under federal law.
  • Quick-thinking Senate aides grabbed the wooden boxes containing the electoral votes before being evacuated.
  • While multiple copies of the votes exist, Congress may not have been able to certify Biden's win as quickly without those boxes.

Pro-Trump rioters breached the US Capitol on Wednesday, forcing members of Congress to evacuate the building at 2:30 p.m. local time.

Congress was in the middle of a congressional joint session to count electoral votes from the 2020 presidential election. Federal law dictates that sealed certificates of each state's electoral votes - which were cast December 14 - are transported to the Congressional chamber in ceremonial, 18-inch by 10-inch mahogany boxes lined with leather.

As they evacuated, Congressional aides grabbed the boxes, rescuing them from possible harm or vandalism.
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"If our capable floor staff hadn't grabbed them, they would have been burned by the mob," Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon tweeted.
Senate aides rescued boxes containing the electoral votes as a mob besieged the Capitol. Without them, Congress may not have been able to affirm Biden's win as quickly.
Senate staff carry boxes containing state Electoral College votes at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC.Cheriss May/Getty

Some of those aides were part of Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough's staff, according to a pool report compiled by Capitol Hill reporters.

MacDonough's office, which is responsible for interpreting Congressional rules, has not responded to Insider's request for further comment.
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The boxes were a crucial part of reaffirming Biden's win

Senate aides rescued boxes containing the electoral votes as a mob besieged the Capitol. Without them, Congress may not have been able to affirm Biden's win as quickly.
Boxes containing state Electoral College votes are opened during a joint session of Congress at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC.Olivier Douliery/Getty

The votes in these boxes were a crucial piece in the final step, under federal law, to certify the 2020 presidential election and reaffirm the winner.

Both Democrat and Republican members of the House of Representatives and Senate needed to read aloud the certificates inside the boxes that recorded each state's electoral votes. Congress then needed to count those votes before Vice President Mike Pence could confirm President-elect Joe Biden as the winner of the election.
Senate aides rescued boxes containing the electoral votes as a mob besieged the Capitol. Without them, Congress may not have been able to affirm Biden's win as quickly.
People evacuate from the House Camber as protesters try to break into the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in WashingtonAndrew Harnik/AP
One video shows how the Senate Parliamentarian's office had been ransacked after extremists besieged the Capitol. Papers and files were strewn across furniture and the floor, possibly suggesting the mob had been searching for the boxes containing the votes needed to certify Biden's win.
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President Donald Trump had asked his followers at a "Stop the Steal" rally Wednesday morning to descend on Washington, DC, and protest the election results.

Those ceremonial wooden boxes do not contain the only copy of each state's electoral vote count, so had they been left behind, the certification process could have preceded, but perhaps not as quickly.

After electors met and voted in their respective states in December, several copies of the electoral vote certificates were sent to each state's governor, the National Archives, and the local US district court judge in the area.
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The Federal Registrar also posted digital copies of each certificate on the Electoral College webpage.

But, given the boxes containing the physical copies of the certificates is safe and sound, Congress had one less barrier to overcome in order to finish the certification process early Thursday morning.

Congress was able to finish the electoral vote certification

Senators like Joe Manchin from West Virginia and Tammy Duckworth from Illinois both supported Congress's efforts to restart the process late Wednesday night.
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"Whatever it takes ... these thugs aren't running us off," Manchin tweeted.
Senate aides rescued boxes containing the electoral votes as a mob besieged the Capitol. Without them, Congress may not have been able to affirm Biden's win as quickly.
Senate aides carry the Electoral College ballot boxes at the Capitol, on January 7, 2021 in Washington, DC.Olivier Douliery/Getty

Lawmakers returned to the Congressional chambers, boxes in hand, around 8 p.m. local time to finish the joint session.

Lingering objections to the results by some Republicans were overruled, and Congress finished the certification process and vote count eight hours later.
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They concluded Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris won the 2020 election with 306 Electoral College votes.

Expanded Coverage Module: capitol-siege-module
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