Fact Check: Biden's Presidential Term Did NOT Start Right After 2020 Election Was Called -- Results' Timing Does NOT Influence Term Limits

Fact Check

  • by: Madison Dapcevich
Fact Check: Biden's Presidential Term Did NOT Start Right After 2020 Election Was Called -- Results' Timing Does NOT Influence Term Limits 20th Amendment

Did President Joe Biden's term start immediately after the 2020 election was called, thus influencing Donald Trump's decision to announce a second presidential bid for 2024? No, that's not true: Biden was not formally sworn into office until the presidential inauguration on January 20, 2021, as the Constitution mandates. The 2020 presidential election was certified on January 7, 2021, after being delayed by the U.S. Capitol insurrection on the preceding day.

The claim emerged on November 7, 2022 in a post shared on Scored, a thread-based ranking platform akin to Reddit, on the self-described "pro-Q" (an apparent reference to QAnon) page,
The Great Awakening United World Wide (archived here). A screenshot of the post was later shared on Instagram that same day. It read, in part:

A little confusing but it's still Simple Maths!! Don't hate on some of the errors if there are any πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚, instead try to understand the why rather than my typos or something

Trump was elected a 4 year term

Joe Biden 'won' after election night in 2020.

Last states were certified some week or two later (I believe Wisconsin or Michigan, Georgia, and Pennsylvania were the states in Limbo) so let's push the 'confirmed win' out a couple of weeks from Election Night. (This couple weeks will be important later)

If Trump were to announce tonight that he would be running in 2024, then that would be under the 2 year mark from where Biden was 'confirmed winner'.

BUT, if Trump announces it LATER, then that would fall OVER that 2 year mark, thus ALLOWING Trump to potentially finish these remaining less than 2 years AND be technically allowed to run again.

Below is a screenshot of the Scored post as it appeared in its entirety at the time of this fact check's writing:

Screen Shot 2022-11-08 at 3.46.37 PM.png

(Source: Scored screengrab taken Tues Nov 8 21:46:37 2022 UTC)

The poster argued that if Trump were to announce a 2024 bid for the presidency before the "2 year mark" of Biden's term, Trump would concede the 2020 election results. If Trump were to wait until after the halfway point of Biden's term, the poster alleged, then Trump could finish the last two years of Biden's term and run for reelection in 2024.

This claim is not about how presidential elections are conducted. Biden was not granted presidential powers in any capacity until his term officially started on January 20, 2021.

The general election was held on November 3, 2020, and, as is common, the results were not formally declared on Election Day. Each state has its own set of rules for how elections are run in its state. This means that it can take weeks for a state to certify a winner.

Below, Lead Stories compiled a general timeline of the 2020 election and certification of its results, as recorded by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

  • November 3, 2020: Election Day. Votes are cast in each state on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, as is codified in the U.S. Constitution. Ballots are counted in the days and weeks following the election.

  • Mid-November through December 14, 2020: Certificates of Ascertainment Sent. These certificates list newly elected officials and the number of votes cast for each. States must prepare multiple original certificates that are authenticated by the governor's signature and the state seal. Governors submit the certificates "as soon as practicable" after their states certify election results to the NARA's Office of the Federal Register.

  • December 8, 2020: Determination of Controversy as to Appointment of Electors. States must make final determinations of any controversies or contests at least six days before the December 14 meeting of electors.

  • December 14, 2020: Meeting of the Electors and Sending Certificates of Vote. Held the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December, this meeting requires electors to meet in their respective states to select the president and vice president. After signing the certificates of the vote, electors seal and certify the electoral votes for immediate distribution.

  • December 23, 2020: Deadline for Receipt of Electoral Votes. The president of the Senate and the archivist should have the electoral votes in hand by December 23, 2020.

  • By January 3, 2021: Transfer of Certificates to Congress. As the new Congress assembles, the archivist transmits sets of certificates to Congress, as requested.

  • January 6, 2021: Counting Electoral Votes. Congress meets in a joint session to count the electoral votes. This was delayed in 2021, as noted by NARA: "Due to violent unrest in and around the Capitol, the electoral results were not certified until 3:44 a.m., the morning of January 7, 2021."

  • January 20, 2021: Inauguration. The president-elect and vice president-elect take the oath of office and formally become the president and vice president of the United States, respectively.

Presidential term limits are codified in the 22nd Amendment of the Constitution, which clearly states in Section 1:

No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once ...

Section 2 of the 20th Amendment clearly defines the end of a presidential term:

The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3d day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.

In the event that Biden was removed from office or no longer able to fulfill his term, Trump would not be entitled to claim the presidency, according to the 25th Amendment:

Section 1. In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.

Section 2. Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.

Section 3. Whenever the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President.

The next general election in which the U.S. will elect the 47th president, will be held on November 5, 2024. The president-elect will formally take office during the inauguration, which is scheduled for January 20, 2025.

Additional Lead Stories fact checks related to the 2020 U.S. presidential election can be found here.

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  Madison Dapcevich

Raised on an island in southeast Alaska, Madison grew up a perpetually curious tidepooler and has used that love of science and innovation in her now full-time role as a science reporter for the fact-checking publication Lead Stories.

Read more about or contact Madison Dapcevich

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