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President-elect of the United States is the title used for an incoming President of the United States in the liminal period between the general election on Election Day in November and noon eastern standard time on Inauguration Day, January 20, during which he is not in office yet. The title is used for the apparent winner and is finalized when the Electoral College votes in December and when their ballots are counted by a joint session of Congress in January. If a sitting President has won re-election, he is not referred to as a "President-elect" because he is already in office and is not waiting to become president. If a new President is scheduled to enter, then the current-standing one is said to hold the office on a lame-duck basis.

Constitutional criteria

Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution, along with the Twelfth and Twentieth Amendments govern the election of the U.S. President. The members of the Electoral College are elected by the people in November once every four years in a general election; on the Monday after the second Wednesday in December, electors convene in their respective state capitals (and the District of Columbia) and in turn elect the President of the United States. The electoral ballots are counted in a joint session of Congress in early January (on January 6 as required by 3 U.S. Code, Chapter 1 or an alternative date set by statute) and if the ballots are accepted without objections, the candidate winning at least 270 electoral votes is announced the President-elect by the incumbent Vice President, in his or her capacity as President of the Senate.

Electoral College role

No constitutional provision or federal law requires electors to vote according to the results of their states' popular vote, though some states bind their electors to their pledges by state law. Historically, there have been only a few instances of electors not casting their ballots for the candidates to whom they were pledged, and such instances have never resulted in changing the final outcome of a presidential election.

Congressional reports

Two congressional reports found that the President-elect is the eventual winner of the majority of electoral ballots cast in December. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) of the Library of Congressmarker, in its 2004 report "Presidential and Vice Presidential Succession: Overview and Current Legislation," discussed the question of when candidates who have received a majority of electoral votes become President-elect. The report notes that the constitutional status of the President-elect is disputed:

The CRS report quotes the 1933 U.S. House committee report accompanying the Twentieth Amendment as endorsing the latter view:

Both reports make clear that becoming President-elect is contingent upon winning the majority of electoral votes.

President-elect succession

Scholars have noted that the national committees of the Democratic and Republican parties have adopted rules for selecting replacement candidates in the event of a nominee's death, either before or after the general election. If the apparent winner of the general election dies before the Electoral College votes in December the electors probably would endorse whatever new nominee their national party selects as a replacement. If the apparent winner dies between the College's December vote and its counting in Congress in January, the Twelfth Amendment stipulates that all electoral ballots cast shall be counted, presumably even those for a dead candidate. The U.S. House committee reporting on the proposed Twentieth Amendment said the "Congress would have 'no discretion' [and] 'would declare that the deceased candidate had received a majority of the votes.'"

In cases where a President has not been chosen by January 20 or the President-elect "fails to qualify," the Vice President-elect becomes Acting President on January 20 until there is a qualified President. If the President-elect dies before noon January 20, the Twentieth Amendment states the Vice President-elect becomes President. In cases where there is no President-elect or Vice president-elect, the Amendment also gives the Congress the authority to declare an Acting President until such time as there is a President or Vice president. At this point the Presidential Succession Act of 1947 would apply, with the office of the Presidency going to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, followed by the President pro tempore of the Senate and various Cabinet officers.

The closest instance of a Vice President-elect becoming President came just 23 days after the ratification of the Twentieth Amendment. On February 15, 1933, Giuseppe Zangara fired a gun at President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt, but missed, instead hitting Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak. If the assassination attempt on Roosevelt had been successful then, pursuant to Section 3 of the amendment, Vice President-elect John Nance Garner would have been sworn in as President on Inauguration Day (March 4, 1933).

Presidential transitions

Recent Presidents-elect have assembled Presidential transition teams to prepare for a smooth transfer of power following the inauguration. Outgoing Presidents have cooperated with the President-elect on important policy matters during the last two months of the President's term to ensure a smooth transition and continuity of operations that have significant national interests. Before the ratification of the Twentieth Amendment in 1933, which moved the start of the Presidential term to January, the President-elect did not assume office until March, four months after the popular election.

The Presidential Transition Act of 1963 authorizes the Administrator of the General Services Administration to certify, even before the December vote of the Electoral College, the apparent winner of the November general election as the President-elect for the purposes of receiving federal transition funding, office space and communications services prior to the beginning of the new administration on January 20.

The President-elect assumes office as the next President of the United States of America upon the expiration of the term of the previous office-holder at noon on January 20. This procedure has been the subject of many misinterpretations and urban legends, such as the myth of David Rice Atchison's one-day-long presidency, which is not only predicated upon false assumptions but is also logically flawed. Taking the formal oath of office does not affect the automatic accession to and occupation of the office of the presidency, which, in the case of the U.S. President, proceeds, ipso facto, from the expiration of the predecessor's term.

Presidents-elect and Vice Presidents-elect receive protection from the United States Secret Service, but since the assassinationmarker of Robert F. Kennedy, they have received such protection during the election campaign.

List of U.S. Presidents-elect


See also

External links


  2. In November 2000, the GSA administrator did not name a president-elect until the legal disputes over vote counting in Florida were resolved.
  3. Date of election by House of Representatives
  4. Taylor was sworn in on March 5.
  5. Date the contested election was certified by Congress
  6. Hayes took his inauguration oath privately on March 3 and publicly on March 5.
  7. Date of election was November 8, 1960. Due to closeness of the election Richard Nixon did not concede until of the afternoon of November 9.
  8. This was the date Al Gore conceded following the U.S. Supreme Court's halting of recount efforts in Florida (See: ).

Party shadings
Order Name From To
1 George Washington January 10, 1789 April 30, 1789
2 John Adams 1796 March 4, 1797
3 Thomas Jefferson February 17, 1801 March 4, 1801
4 James Madison 1808 March 4, 1809
5 James Monroe 1816 March 4, 1817
6 John Quincy Adams February 9, 1825 March 4, 1825
7 Andrew Jackson December 3, 1828 March 4, 1829
8 Martin Van Buren December 7, 1836 March 4, 1837
9 William Henry Harrison December 2, 1840 March 4, 1841
10 James Polk December 4, 1844 March 4, 1845
11 Zachary Taylor November 7, 1848 March 4, 1849
12 Franklin Pierce November 2, 1852 March 4, 1853
13 James Buchanan November 4, 1856 March 4, 1857
14 Abraham Lincoln November 6, 1860 March 4, 1861
15 Ulysses Grant November 3, 1868 March 4, 1869
16 Rutherford Hayes March 2, 1877 March 4, 1877
17 James Garfield November 2, 1880 March 4, 1881
18 Grover Cleveland November 4, 1884 March 4, 1885
19 Benjamin Harrison November 6, 1888 March 4, 1889
20 Grover Cleveland November 8, 1892 March 4, 1893
21 William McKinley November 3, 1896 March 4, 1897
22 William Taft November 3, 1908 March 4, 1909
23 Woodrow Wilson November 5, 1912 March 4, 1913
24 Warren Harding November 2, 1920 March 4, 1921
25 Herbert Hoover November 6, 1928 March 4, 1929
26 Franklin D. Roosevelt November 8, 1932 March 4, 1933
27 Dwight Eisenhower November 4, 1952 January 20, 1953
28 John F. Kennedy November 9, 1960 January 20, 1961
29 Richard Nixon November 5, 1968 January 20, 1969
30 Jimmy Carter November 2, 1976 January 20, 1977
31 Ronald Reagan November 4, 1980 January 20, 1981
32 George H. W. Bush November 8, 1988 January 20, 1989
33 Bill Clinton November 3, 1992 January 20, 1993
34 George W. Bush December 13, 2000 January 20, 2001
35 Barack Obama November 4, 2008 January 20, 2009

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