Joe Biden was named the new president of the United States on Saturday. But he won’t be this until January 20, 2021, when he takes the official oath at the Capitol in Washington DC. That date is still more than two months in the future. What happens until that day, while Donald Trump is still president?
Until November 23: counting of votes
“I solemnly swear that I will uphold and defend the United States Constitution. … So help me God.” With those words, Biden will officially assume the office of President of the United States on January 20.
Until then, however, everything is still happening in the background. This has all to do with the American electoral system, in which – to put it very superficially – the voter did not vote for Biden directly. In technical terms, they voted for electoral votes from the various states, who are part of the electoral college that will ultimately determine the president.
They will only do this when all votes have been fully counted and verified. And as we saw last week when counting, it can take quite some time.
In the complicated political system of the United States, each state has different rules regarding the counting of votes. This year it is even more complicated with the large number of people who voted by mail.
That’s the way it is: some states count post votes for days, as long as they are marked November 3 (election day). In most states that is one or two days, but in a state like Washington, votes count that arrive on November 23rd.
The counting is then extremely accurate, so it takes some time. All states must have communicated their final result between November 10 and December 11 at the latest.
Most final results will come in soon, but if there is a small margin for the Republican or Democratic party to request a recount (if possible), it may take longer. Incidentally, it seems unlikely that this will happen, as the margins in the major swing states that helped Biden win are large enough.
It is then already a month after Biden claimed his winnings, but officially all states (with except California) on this day have counted all votes, cleared up all disturbances and determined a winner.
States must produce a statement in which they without doubt declare a candidate the winner. That is important, because that list goes to the electors. Contrary to what the name suggests, this can also be women.
Those electors are not virtual votes, but real persons. In practice, they are people who have standing within both parties. They will therefore almost always vote loyally for ‘their’ candidate, according to the results, but this is not required in some states.